Michelangelo Antonioni

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repeat
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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#151 Post by repeat » Sun Jul 21, 2013 7:11 am

Just out of interest, who would some of these postmodern critics be - do you mean people in their late twenties, thirties? Because I'm wondering if this phenomenon you're observing could be just a generational backlash; a natural lack of interest in these directors that the 1960's generation has been idolizing for five decades now. That would seem to me much more understandable than any theories about the contents of their films as such.

Personally, I've never seen anyone over 50 who is not a filmmaker say a bad word against either Bergman or Antonioni; and on the other hand I haven't seen much attention paid to them (or Fellini, or Kurosawa) by younger folks. It might be more useful to ask why Godard continues to be relevant and interesting to younger critics while these four others maybe less so.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#152 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun Jul 21, 2013 7:11 am

To an extent Antonioni is perceived as being slightly out of fashion, although the major centenary exhibition in Ferrara now transferred to the Bozar Expo in Brussels tells a rather different story...

In a sense that the more conservative (while artistically radical) Dreyer & Bresson are not, figures such as Godard, Resnais, Antonioni, Pasolini, Bergman etc. were seen as modernist giants of European Art Cinema, and like all such clunky icons, were liable to be toppled with regime change. However this then moves to the side a whole set of fashion dependant preconceptions, which in fact have somewhat obscured the depth and dimension of the work itself, now ripe for reappraisal and appreciation...

I was in Cinecitta on Thursday, a remarkable experience where you could almost feel the ghosts of the great Italian masters about the soundstages & backlots, Visconti's BELLISSIMA & Antonioni's LA SIGNORA SENZA CAMELIE coming especially to mind...

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#153 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jul 21, 2013 10:18 am

Lubitsch wrote:To put it simple, Antonioni's 60s films strike me as terribly unsubtle. They make very early on their point and then beat you with a club over your head for the next two hours repeating it.
One of the beautiful things about L'Eclisse in particular is the way that every single scene of the film strikes me as being the central, key one (the stock exchange, the airplane ride, the drunk stealing the car, the opening dissolution of a relationship, Marta and her African flat, the final sequence etc) around which all of the other scenes are revolving and informing.

In a way I agree with you Lubitsch that the idea is presented fully formed at the beginning and the rest of the film is a kind of series of variations on that idea of ennui, but in L'Eclisse at least I think the entire film is perfectly judged so that there is a slightly different take on that idea presented from scene to scene, any of which could have been the focus of an entire film. In a way that is what makes L'Eclisse so endlessly repeatable, as it could just be on a never-ending loop of failed relationship-beginning relationship entropy against a background of never-ending societal breakdown, exploitation and corruption. It is a general, almost tending into abstract, view rather than a specific one, but that general view is still a fascinating one.

I do not think that I've seen another film (not even L'Avventura, which is more of a straight narrative, despite the narrative investigative thread becoming more and more arbitrary as it goes) do that as successfully - Zabriske Point comes close but eventually is a less successful attempt to do the same thing - and I wonder if that is down to the need/pressure to put in certain less universal aspects of ennui into the film in order to make a kind of grand definitive statement on exploitation, politics, or even the zeitgeist of the times, which prevents that kind of non-centred universality from being attained in that film. Or to put it another way, Zabriske Point builds to fabulous set pieces such as all of the couples making love in the desert or the final explosive sequence, but the fact that they can be considered and celebrated almost as effectively outside of the structure of the entire film is kind of damning too.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#154 Post by rrenault » Sun Jul 21, 2013 11:05 am

I think many people tend to channel the Andrew Sarris school of thought and find the "strained seriousness/highbrowness" of an Antonioni or a Pasolini offensive as if it were begging to be taken seriously in an effort film can be a legitimate art form. The notion of course being film shouldn't have to have something to prove, and the work of a John Ford or even of a Jean Renoir lends credence to this. I think some people may find the uber "artiness" of Antonioni, nevermind that of someone like Imamura or Oshima, insulting to the "simplicity of expression that belies inspiration" which one finds in Ford, Renoir, or Hawks (i.e. "You don't have to try so hard to remind people you're an ARTIST. It's enough to just effortlessly the camera where you want it and begin turning"). This is, of course, inane since just about any work that's truly radical, and yes much of John Ford was radical in its own way, as well, is going to scream ART to those who first see it.

Now I certainly wonder, why aren't the peers of such filmmakers in other mediums like Faulkner, Stravinsky, or Monk treated as "clunky icons"?

Certainly, the other reason so many people view Antonioni as pretentious is this, or at least it certainly doesn't help:

Mee-kel-ahn-gel-oh Ahn-toh-ny-ohhh-nii.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#155 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Sun Jul 21, 2013 1:05 pm

rrenault wrote:I think many people tend to channel the Andrew Sarris school of thought and find the "strained seriousness/highbrowness" of an Antonioni or a Pasolini offensive as if it were begging to be taken seriously in an effort film can be a legitimate art form.
Your Sarris reference struck me as incorrect as I don't recall Sarris dismissing Antonioni as strained serious, pretentious. I checked back on his ten best lists and found L'Avventura #3 of it's year (right behind Two Rode Together) Red Desert #5 of 1965, Blow-up #1 of 1966 (two ahead of Seven Women), The Passenger #2 of 1975. He did question the increasing thinness of the narratives, especially in Zabriskie Point, and also the corresponding tendency towards what he termed "cinema as art object".

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#156 Post by MichaelB » Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:34 pm

repeat wrote:Just out of interest, who would some of these postmodern critics be - do you mean people in their late twenties, thirties? Because I'm wondering if this phenomenon you're observing could be just a generational backlash; a natural lack of interest in these directors that the 1960's generation has been idolizing for five decades now.
Or it could be something as straightforward as simple lack of availability.

I can't speak for other countries, but in my native Britain pretty much every Antonioni aside from Blow-Up and Zabriskie Point wasn't in commercial distribution in any medium for most of the 1980s and 90s - I first watched Italian Antonionis courtesy of unsubtitled Italian VHS tapes in the late 80s, which was less than ideal.

Conversely, Bergman, Bresson, Fellini, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky and 60s Godard played regularly in rep throughout this period - so anyone getting into art cinema during this period during those crucial late-teens/early-twenties formative years would naturally have gravitated towards them.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#157 Post by hearthesilence » Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:42 pm

FWIW, Jonathan Rosenbaum's site has posted a string of articles on Antonioni this past week or two, including an excellent feature written in 1993.

Antonioni is someone I've grown to appreciate immensely in the past 4 years. For a long time, I was only familiar with Blow-Up and vaguely L'Avventura, both first seen in high school when I was more accustomed to popcorn films than anything else. Having revisited those films and seen the rest of his work as a full-grown adult, they carry a lot more weight for me nowadays. What he does formally (often times, I feel like everything you'd normally get out of character development has been accomplished with the landscape) still astounds me, and until I see more Rossellini films, I'd have to agree with Rosenbaum's assessment: for me Antonioni is hands down the greatest of all Italian filmmakers.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#158 Post by ellipsis7 » Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:43 pm

Even the received wisdom about the later films is flawed... I have revelatory copy of the original shooting script of ZP from Mgt Herrick Lib/AMPAS plus previous treatment and endings... See then this current Senses of Cinama piece about CHUNG KUO CINA & drawing on MA's reaction to the negative reception of ZP, thence concentrating on the Chinese reaction from their POV... He certainly annoyed & perplexed all parties stateside & orientally ...

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#159 Post by bdlover » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:07 am

rrenault, not much to say except that the Guardian article you quote is quite idiotic (who wrote it and when, do you have a link?).

Antonioni's trilogy was a current sensation in 1962, hence L'Avventura's massive placing in that particular poll. This doesn't mean that Antonioni has fallen from grace: that many of his films still had good showings in the latest poll, fifty years later, demonstrates his staying power more than anything. Antonioni, Bergman and Tarkovsky all placed significantly higher than Rossellini and Pialat, btw.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#160 Post by rrenault » Fri Jul 26, 2013 4:15 am

I wouldn't expect Pialat to feature prominently in a poll of that nature. I'm a Pialat fan, but my main point was he's the sort of figure that would appeal to someone who worships Rossellini but is rather ambivalent towards Antonioni (Cough Truffaut cough).

But still, I wonder why Citizen Kane and Rules of the Game have so much more staying power than L'Avventura. They've continuously been in the top 5-10 while L'Avventura dropped from 3 to like 21! It seems like the "Euro art" filmmakers will always play second fiddle to the Interwar period titans like Renoir, Murnau, Dreyer, Eisenstein, etc. Perhaps the latter four are just more easily assimilated at this point and have outlived their divisiveness. Godard, Antonion, and Pasolini have not.

But you have to wonder. Why will the "greatest film of all time" always be a Citizen Kane or a Rules of the Game or a Tokyo Story, but never a Red Desert or a Contempt or a Persona or even a Celine and Julie Go Boating?

That's something that's interesting to ponder. Why would the "greatest film of all time" always be an Old Hollywood film or a European work from the Interwar period as opposed to a postwar "European art film". It's gotten to the point where it's almost construed as philistinism to suggest the "Euro art" filmmakers surpassed people like Hitchcock and Ford in philosophical or thematic depth. The notion is if you prefer Antonioni to Ford you're just some shallow pretentious dweeb who has to have ART thrown in his face. And if it's clearly the case that Ford, Hitchcock, Welles, and Murnau were superior to Antonioni, Godard, Bergman, and Pasolini then the "Euro art house" movement was clearly for naught. N'est-ce pas?

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#161 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:33 am

rrenault wrote:It's gotten to the point where it's almost construed as philistinism to suggest the "Euro art" filmmakers surpassed people like Hitchcock and Ford in philosophical or thematic depth. The notion is if you prefer Antonioni to Ford you're just some shallow pretentious dweeb who has to have ART thrown in his face. And if it's clearly the case that Ford, Hitchcock, Welles, and Murnau were superior to Antonioni, Godard, Bergman, and Pasolini then the "Euro art house" movement was clearly for naught. N'est-ce pas?
No one says this. Half of your posts here argue against claims no one makes.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#162 Post by Sloper » Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:16 am

bdlover wrote:rrenault, not much to say except that the Guardian article you quote is quite idiotic (who wrote it and when, do you have a link?).
It's Brian Baxter's obituary for Ingmar Bergman in 2007. The whole article's a bit of a mess, really. Here's another paragraph on Bergman's work, which might help to illuminate the point he's making:
Brian Baxter wrote:The results, although immaculate, remain somewhat heartless and one might easily - in the lesser films - confuse technical skill with mechanical bravado. He seemed unable to forget that he was examining a theme or topic, rather than creating a film where the medium itself can unwittingly reveal - in the hands of a great artist - an inner truth. The result is an occasional lack of spontaneity, compounded by the increasing skill of the performances. On occasion the actors so busily suggested improvisation and naturalness that, unlike the greatest screen actors Spencer Tracy or Trevor Howard, say, they achieved the opposite.
That earlier phrase, 'the simplicity of expression that belies inspiration' might suggest that Baxter does not understand what 'belie' means, but I guess his point is that Bergman (and Antonioni) are trying too hard, thinking too much, and so revealing a lack of 'inspiration'. Bergman and Antonioni are perhaps rather cerebral film-makers, better at making us think than at making us feel; at least that's how I respond to them, and is perhaps why I tend to get impatient with Bergman's films when they become emotive or sentimental.

However, a work of art that seems to operate primarily on a cerebral, intellectual level can ultimately elicit a very profound emotional response. I always feel weirdly moved by the scenes in the park in Blowup, for instance: the compositions, the placement of the human figures among the grass and the trees, induce a whole series of reflections on isolation, loneliness, the longing for a connection, and the final effect of this process is devastating. The same goes for the climactic sci-fi fantasy in Identification of a Woman. It may not look or sound like the ending of Ordet, but it's still deeply poignant.
rrenault wrote:But you have to wonder. Why will the "greatest film of all time" always be a Citizen Kane or a Rules of the Game or a Tokyo Story, but never a Red Desert or a Contempt or a Persona or even a Celine and Julie Go Boating?
The obvious (glib) answer might be that the last four films you mentioned are all deliberately alienating and, for all their intensity, rather cold, whereas the first three, for all their bleakness, are deeply and overtly empathetic. That said, if you really want to read that much into 'greatest film of all time' polls, you might want to consider the recent triumph of Vertigo in the S&S poll.
ellipsis7 wrote:See then this current Senses of Cinama piece about CHUNG KUO CINA & drawing on MA's reaction to the negative reception of ZP, thence concentrating on the Chinese reaction from their POV... He certainly annoyed & perplexed all parties stateside & orientally ...
Great article on Chung Kuo - thanks for the link. I'm not totally 'in tune' with some of the more theoretical stuff in that piece, but it's all beautifully deployed in the service of a really persuasive argument. A great (and nicely balanced) account of the film's qualities, contexts and limitations. Can't wait to watch it again now.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#163 Post by rrenault » Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:37 am

Yes, but much of the art that's been easily assimilated now, like that of Flaubert or of any of the French Impressionist painters was considered "deliberately alienating" during its time in much the same way a film like Contempt would be seen as "deliberately alienating" today.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#164 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:38 am

rrenault wrote:But still, I wonder why Citizen Kane and Rules of the Game have so much more staying power than L'Avventura. They've continuously been in the top 5-10 while L'Avventura dropped from 3 to like 21!
Yes, but that's because you're not comparing like with like. The 1962 poll (where L'Avventura came second) had just 145 contributors, and was only assessing roughly fifty years of cinema. The 2012 poll (where it did indeed come 21st) had 846 - with the further complication that these 846 people had an additional half-century of cinema to take into account, so the competition was far fiercer.

And yet despite all this, L'Avventura still managed to get twice as many votes in 2012 (43) as it did in 1962 (20)!

Which is pretty impressive when you consider that the film hasn't been that easy to see for much of the intervening period (as I probably already said in this thread, it was out of circulation in Britain for a very long time indeed, and doubtless elsewhere) - whereas Citizen Kane, La Règle du Jeu and Tokyo Story have been constantly reissued. Even Vertigo was widely seen in bootleg copies when it was notionally locked away in the vaults prior to 1983.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#165 Post by Sloper » Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:57 am

rrenault wrote:Yes, but much of the art that's been easily assimilated now, like that of Flaubert or of any of the French Impressionist painters was considered "deliberately alienating" during its time in much the same way a film like Contempt would be seen as "deliberately alienating" today.
Not sure I understand your point about Flaubert, or how you're applying the term 'alienating' to his work. Wasn't it condemned for being obscene, rather than for being 'alienating' or difficult? Madame Bovary is a scathing, horrifying novel, but it's also incredibly funny, empathetic and tragic. That's why it's so popular, and I'm guessing it's why it was a bestseller in its own day (I don't know much about the novel's reception, I have to say). Same goes for Sentimental Education and A Simple Heart, which I believe are Flaubert's next most popular works.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#166 Post by rrenault » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:03 am

This might have something to do with the allegations of pretension directed at Antonioni:

Image

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#167 Post by rrenault » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:06 am

MichaelB wrote:
rrenault wrote:But still, I wonder why Citizen Kane and Rules of the Game have so much more staying power than L'Avventura. They've continuously been in the top 5-10 while L'Avventura dropped from 3 to like 21!
Yes, but that's because you're not comparing like with like. The 1962 poll (where L'Avventura came second) had just 145 contributors, and was only assessing roughly fifty years of cinema. The 2012 poll (where it did indeed come 21st) had 846 - with the further complication that these 846 people had an additional half-century of cinema to take into account, so the competition was far fiercer.

And yet despite all this, L'Avventura still managed to get twice as many votes in 2012 (43) as it did in 1962 (20)!

Which is pretty impressive when you consider that the film hasn't been that easy to see for much of the intervening period (as I probably already said in this thread, it was out of circulation in Britain for a very long time indeed, and doubtless elsewhere) - whereas Citizen Kane, La Règle du Jeu and Tokyo Story have been constantly reissued. Even Vertigo was widely seen in bootleg copies when it was notionally locked away in the vaults prior to 1983.
20/145=.138
43/846=.051

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#168 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:13 am

Your formula doesn't take into account the number of films in existence in 1962 and the equivalent in 2012 - without which, your calculation is meaningless.

But I have to say that your whole argument seems pretty meaningless.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#169 Post by domino harvey » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:16 am

Plus, the early sixties were probably the last time a serious film lover could have been said to have seen a majority of available films of import. There's a reason Godard viewed his tenure at Cahiers as experiencing the last breath of cinema

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#170 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:23 am

Sloper wrote:Not sure I understand your point about Flaubert, or how you're applying the term 'alienating' to his work. Wasn't it condemned for being obscene, rather than for being 'alienating' or difficult? Madame Bovary is a scathing, horrifying novel, but it's also incredibly funny, empathetic and tragic. That's why it's so popular, and I'm guessing it's why it was a bestseller in its own day (I don't know much about the novel's reception, I have to say). Same goes for Sentimental Education and A Simple Heart, which I believe are Flaubert's next most popular works.
It's a pretty weird thing to say about a novel about torrid adultery. Flaubert's own claim, "I am Madame Bovary!", would seem to contradict the idea that Flaubert was keeping any of the material at arm's length. Plus there's its lyrical prose style, especially in the nature descriptions, never a technique that provoked much alienation.
sloper wrote:I guess his point is that Bergman (and Antonioni) are trying too hard, thinking too much, and so revealing a lack of 'inspiration'. Bergman and Antonioni are perhaps rather cerebral film-makers, better at making us think than at making us feel; at least that's how I respond to them, and is perhaps why I tend to get impatient with Bergman's films when they become emotive or sentimental.
Wow, that's about the extreme opposite of how I respond to Bergman. I can take or leave the intellectual content, whereas I'm enthralled by the emotional content, and not just the more gentle, winning emotions of Wild Strawberries, say, but the relentless excavations of pain and rage in something like Cries and Whispers or Winter Light. Far from alienating me, I find Bergman's films fairly pulse with emotions that, however far from your own, are easy to get caught up in, or at least come to feel they're of singular importance. This is quite the opposite of Antonioni, who's a fairly dispassionate and removed filmmaker.

I think this whole conversation is sour grapes. I mean, complaining that L'aaventura managed to make the list of the top 20 films ever made is kind of bemusing in its narrow-sightedness.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#171 Post by MichaelB » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:44 am

domino harvey wrote:Plus, the early sixties were probably the last time a serious film lover could have been said to have seen a majority of available films of import. There's a reason Godard viewed his tenure at Cahiers as experiencing the last breath of cinema
Exactly. If you look back to what was available in 1962, vast chunks of film history were off limits to most English speakers (a description that I imagine applied to the majority of people being polled).

Japanese cinema had only been around a decade as far as the West was concerned, eastern European cinema was represented pretty much exclusively by Poland (which had recently had an international breakthrough that the Hungarians and Czechs wouldn't match until the mid-60s), and Latin American, African and Chinese cinema might as well not have existed at all, or Indian besides Satyajit Ray. And there were precious few opportunities to watch older films besides a selection of already-canonised titles - one reason, I suspect, why the older polls tend to favour what were then very recent titles like Bicycle Thieves and L'Avventura much more than the later ones.

So not only was the overall pool much, much smaller, it would have been massively US and western European-centric, with a few token Soviet and Japanese titles thrown in.

Under those circumstances, as Mr Sausage says, the fact that a title like L'Avventura, which has been only patchily accessible for much of its life, still manages to come in at number 21 (and since 17 was a tie, you could argue that it cracked the Top 20) is a remarkably impressive achievement.
Last edited by MichaelB on Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#172 Post by Sloper » Fri Jul 26, 2013 10:48 am

Mr Sausage wrote:Wow, that's about the extreme opposite of how I respond to Bergman. I can take or leave the intellectual content, whereas I'm enthralled by the emotional content, and not just the more gentle, winning emotions of Wild Strawberries, say, but the relentless excavations of pain and rage in something like Cries and Whispers or Winter Light. Far from alienating me, I find Bergman's films fairly pulse with emotions that, however far from your own, are easy to get caught up in, or at least come to feel they're of singular importance. This is quite the opposite of Antonioni, who's a fairly dispassionate and removed filmmaker.
I thought someone might respond like this - not that I was trolling, of course... It's interesting to debate these distinctions, but they're all so subjective. What you find 'dispassionate and removed' in Antonioni, I feel intensely caught up in on an emotional level...though I can see what you mean, and I tend to go through a lot of brain-work before getting to that emotional level. What you're 'enthralled' by in Bergman tends to leave me fairly cold, although again I can of course see what you mean. For instance, I find Harriet Andersson's performance in Cries and Whispers literally unwatchable at times, because it's such an unflinching evocation of unendurable pain. No one could watch those scenes without having some kind of emotional response. And yet, this seems to me something that Andersson, rather than Bergman, is making me feel, and the film itself strikes me as rather cold, indeed as rather detached from what that character is going through (much like her sisters). Likewise, Scenes from a Marriage is full of scenes that are, by any normal standards, 'emotionally intense', and yet when I watch the film I tend not to empathise much with the characters - first and foremost, I admire the intricacy and flair with which Bergman and his actors dissect the relationship. The five hours go by in a flash, I find, partly because I find the film so compelling, but also because I don't feel all that 'caught up' in it emotionally, even at the most violent moments. Conversely, although Antonioni never (on the surface) seems to invite empathy or sympathy for the un-named photographer in Blowup, and rarely does so for Niccolo in Identification, their barely-expressed anguish affects me very deeply. The latter film in particular always seems to last forever, and is quite exhausting - I usually have to take a break halfway through - because the story it's telling is so painful. This may all sound a bit weird, but I suppose it's a good thing that we can respond to these films in such drastically different ways.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#173 Post by Mr Sausage » Fri Jul 26, 2013 11:12 am

Yeah, I wrote that in the spirit of respectful disagreement. In a case like this, our responses to Bergman (or Antonioni) will be our own. I think we can find common agreement on at least two points:

A. Bergman's films are emotional and very up front about those emotions, regardless of whether one can engage in them or not.
B. Antonioni's films are subdued and pitched very low. It's not the presence so much as the absence of emotion that affects the viewer.

The only thing I would add is that my response to Bergman is probably more like the general response to him, whereas your response to Antonioni is probably more like the general response than mine. If I had to guess, anyway.

I will add, too, that despite all the disrupting formal techniques in Contempt, I find that, unlike every other Godard film I've seen, I'm able to engage with that one on a deep emotional rather than just an intellectual level. That central scene in the apartment is increasingly devastating as the pattern of reconciliation and rupture keeps renewing, and for all the deliberate fakeness of the auto accident, the image still wrecks me every time.

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#174 Post by repeat » Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:03 pm

Mr Sausage wrote:despite all the disrupting formal techniques in Contempt, I find that, unlike every other Godard film I've seen, I'm able to engage with that one on a deep emotional rather than just an intellectual level
Ditto - and consequently it's the only Godard film for which I can honestly claim to feel anything else than either a) rather disinterested appreciation/admiration or b) rather intense frustration/annoyment...

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Re: Michelangelo Antonioni

#175 Post by Mathew2468 » Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:31 pm

:roll:

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