March Films at the Pacific Film Archive Part III

Of Antonioni's trilogy, I like L'avventura the least. L'eclisse shines with harsh brilliance. La notte is stunning and wrecked. L'avventura is just a bit too empty.

Anna's ghost neither recedes, nor lives on with any veracity. Truth be told, Antonioni reveals the shallow nature of his pool, maybe a little too easily. Perhaps Anna dies behind a scrim, a force of nature, the water spout mimicking her spiraling fall from cliffs, the mini avalanche telling us of her stumbling. Her escape leaves precursors to Gilligan's Island in her wake, but her wake is a small, innocuous wave, and not the tsunami required to flush out the story.

Anna was a trickster, clever and manipulative, certainly capable of making a run from her fellow fools, via the mystery boat, the old Australian, or the smugglers. Too bad, my favorite connection came to light in the dressing room when Claudia (Monica Vitti) tries on Anna's shirt, and keeps it, a foreshadowing of change to come. Claudia later becomes a brunette in a wig, again touching on her drifting into Anna's role. I would have liked to see more of Claudia and Anna together, since they seemed closer to each other, than any of the other pairs.

Luckily Claudia holds up as a sympathetic character. She rejects Sandro the shark, recognizing him at first for the ink-spiller he is. Her judicious (poor) background gives her a street wisdom lacking in the other pencil mustachioed geeks. Ultimately she lets him ring her bell, but quietly predicts his betrayal with the writer whore.

Claudia shape shifts like Anna. She echoes the robotic movements of a bellboy, sends her voice into boarded up buildings, pulls strings to make towers talk. Sonorous cries, and love are set in contrast to balconies, and radios. Ghost towns, apathy, spills, and sharp turns spin out of static architecture, still drawings, boarded up rooms, textured paintings, and wigs.

As an aside, I think Sophia Coppola's failures come out of trying to wring emptiness like this. I see an attempt at Antonioni in her work, but it doesn't quite fail as well as his. Even when he loses me, I'm lost in a better translation. I'm not sure why I want to think about Coppola's work here, maybe because I have hope that her play with alienation and time expressed in the body will cross over into a more topographical, textural materialism one day. Her montages need more brutality and edginess. On an extremely light note, I also see a reference to his pet humor in her scenes containing dogs.


johanna said...

I have yet to see this, but isn't it (like Renoir's Rules of the Game) meant to be a social commentary on the emptiness of the upper class? I think that such commentaries should take into account the changing times. Perhaps this one was just too perfect for the era and too static to last?

Dunno, just a thought.

Thanks for the link. It feels good to be stateside again, but I certainly have my work cut out for me.

SisterRye said...

Yes, I assume it is meant to be a social commentary on the emptiness of the upper class. And, it succeeds, in that sense, by setting Claudia in relief against the others.

I wonder if I had seen it first, and the others afterwards, if it would have seemed more poignant.

Jaques Rivette was inspired by the slow pace of the film.

Good luck with your work.