March Films at the Pacific Film Archive Part 2

Warning, this post may contain spoilers.

Of the few Antonionis I've seen, I liked this one the best so far. The lengthy, frantic stock exchange sequences, the poetic abstract spaces of waiting, the contrasts between hyper motion and stillness reminded me of the existentialist angst of a film like Woman in the Dunes, if capitalists and art collectors were the ones who controlled the flow of sand, wind, and water. In both films, only the fleeting play of lovers is able to stop time. Phones are off their hooks, something that doesn't happen anymore.

L'eclisse moves like an eclipse, of the moon temporarily blocking the sun, or of the earth blocking the sun's light on the moon, I'm not sure which. It hides and reveals light, flies into and out of clouds, prays for moments of silence, even when they cost investors millions. It contains pauses of comic relief in between trembling stands of vulnerability: a poodle on its hind legs, the unselfconscious lovers mimicking odd couples. I also enjoyed Antonioni's Freudian puns, and the Berkeley crowd's audible response to them: phallic towers, Vitti throwing wood into water.

Antonioni seemed to be making a statement against racist stereotyping in a scene out of context, when he had the white African friend of Vitti's ask her to stop playing at being black, after she danced horribly in black face with rings around her neck.

The long montage sequence during l'eclisse's denouement stole both characters from the story, as if we'd jumped into an abstract egoless plane. I'm getting used to his films ending with sudden explosions of light.

Il Grido
I had trouble sympathizing with the wounded bull and his rascally, unaffected daughter. Miles of gas station logos, tread marks, and altars made of oil canisters pave the road to frustration without relief. Why would a man who violently spills the milk being warmed for his daughter be willing to provide for her alone, and why would such a sturdy mother let him take her daughter away? The most believable character was the piano score, Alto for Aldo. The only viable pair were the robust, alcoholic grandfather figure and his young socialist singing partner, little Rosina. Gramps is sent away to a nursing home. Soon after, Rosina is bussed home to mama, who as far as we can tell, has no idea she is on her way. Flags were raised in rural areas to signal the need for a doctor. Pauvre Antonioni forgot to raise his in Po. By the end of this road trip mine was at half mast.


Brian said...

I love L'Eclisse and was very disappointed that my crew arrived at the PFA too late to get tickets. We enjoyed the Cool World though.

I only skimmed your Il Grido review because I'm still planning on seeing it next month at the Castro, but it looks like a negative. Oh well, perhaps I'll like it better...

SisterRye said...

I couldn't believe the number of people turned away at the door. The line was one of the longest I've seen there. We have so many Antonioni fans in Berkeley.

I wished I had stayed for Cool World too. I'll have to see if it's available on DVD, although I'm biased towards theater viewing.

Yeah, don't let me spoil Il Grido for you. You might love it.