Red Desert – Why is Antonioni so great?

Red Desert – Why is Antonioni so great?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

This is a two-fer. One of my commenters had recommended Michelangelo Antonioni after I did a post on Fellini’s “Roma” (click here for that post). When I went to the video store it was checked out so I took another one, “The Passenger” (with Jack Nicholson of all people). But I’ll get to that later; “Red Desert” is the original purpose.

Red Desert (Il deserto rosso) was the first color film that Antonio did. From my perspective it is really boring. The interesting parts of the film are the dramatic visual scenes and the ambient noise of the environment. In this film it mostly consists of industrial settings – pipes going every which way and painted in various non-metalic colors, bleak, angular factory exteriors, belching steam and smoke with the sounds that they produce. The plot is of people filled with ennui. Lots of shots of bored, uncaring people living useless, empty lives and talking about it laconically. I find that I’m in good company in my thinking that Antonioni is boring- Ingmar Bergman and Orson Welles had pretty much the same reaction. I thought about inserting a video but I didn’t want to burden my readers with the film clips.

Now back to the touched upon film “The Passenger”. The best parts of the movie, as with Red Desert, is the visual beauty. Stark yet beautiful north African desert, almost blindingly white houses with standout green shutters, loneliness, isolation and richness of texture of some interiors. The story is reasonably interesting, Nicholson doesn’t chew the scenery too much, the girl seems like she should be in a high school somewhere rather than palling around with Jack in their flat performances.

To sum it all up, I liked the photography and settings of both films but it was a lot to sit through for the cause of a blog post. I recall liking Blowup quite a bit as well as, to a lesser extent, Zabriskie Point but I was much younger and those were pretty racy for their time (1966 and 1970 respectively).

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