Winter 2007





​Michelangelo Antonioni - Probing Unseen Nature of Human Life



by Franco Ricci




Perhaps best known for his elliptical and open-ended stories, Italian modernist film director Michelangelo Antonioni’s own life story found closure when he died in his home in Rome last July 30. He was 94. His death followed that of another luminary of European cinema, Ingmar Bergman, who died only 24 hours earlier. Born in Ferrara, Antonioni graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in economics, but soon turned to film studies, enrolling in the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome to study film technique.

  Accenti FEATURE Michelangelo Antonioni - Probing Unseen Nature of Human Life Franco Ricci

Antonioni began his career during the “neorealist” period, a style akin to documentary filmmaking and strong visual narratives. But he differed from the gritty, often sooty, working-class parables of Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica. Like his contemporary Federico Fellini, Antonioni preferred existential meditations wrapped in cool and stylish portrayals that probed the unseen nature of human life. He disturbed audiences with his first inter- nationally acclaimed film L’avventura (1960). The film’s stark visual style, bleak storyline, and non-development of character caused many to pan the film. His next films, La notte (1961), L’eclisse (1962) and Il deserto rosso (1964) examine man’s alienation in modern society, and are often considered as parts of a trilogy.


The most accessible and most revered of his films by far is the 1966 art-house classic Blowup. The film explores an amoral photographer’s obsessive search for existential certainty in the increasingly detailed blow-up of a photograph of a possible murder. The film’s famous final scene, of mimes playing a mute game of tennis that suddenly “is heard” by the photographer, underlines the impossibility of objective truth. Subsequent films, in particular Zabriskie Point (1970) and The Passenger (1975) placed Antonioni firmly within the 1970s counterculture, as his sound- tracks regularly incorporated music by Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, and the Grateful Dead, as well as actors such as Jack Nicholson and Vanessa Redgrave.


Antonioni was awarded an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1995.  


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