Moving to Italy where we have two of the most influential directors of all time, Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni, who helped shape cinema during the 60s and 70s. Fellini, whose works are more surrealistic is vastly different from the bitter reality of Antonioni’s doomed-romance films. Let’s take a look:
In 1960, Antonioni premiered his first breakout film at Cannes. It was booed relentlessly. But something happened–just a few years later it was being considered one of the greatest films of all time. His style was enrapturing, confusing, and different. His films are aesthetically gorgeous, and with a crisp print from Criterion, it looks like one of the cleanest and beautiful movies I have ever seen.
What got people confused was the long takes, the unconventional editing, and the fact that it focused not on a continuous story, but disjointed events that somehow fit together. L’Avventura starts out on a volcanic island in the Mediterranean with the disappearance of a woman, whose relationship with her boyfriend is slowly deteriorating. The disappearance is a mystery, her body cannot be found, and she couldn’t have swam all the way across the ocean.
But then a funny thing happens, the boyfriend and best friend of the missing girl strike up a love affair and soon forget about their missing friend. They still search for her, but the attempts to find her get pushed to the side so we can focus on their relationship instead. It is a bizarre shift, yet the mystery remains unsolved even at the very end. It is a bitter, beautiful, and haunting film about how love is deteriorating in our modern society.
#29. La Notte
Continuing on with his themes about modern love, as well as his new unique style, Antonioni replaced the emptiness of the Mediterranean with the emptiness of people within cities. This time, a married couple (Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau) deal with their doomed marriage over the course of 24 hours. The majority of the film takes place at a lavish party, which is all fun until you remember that there is an air of unhappiness between the husband and wife.
The closing moments are full of heartbreak and bitterness. We are never given a full answer as to where their lives take the couple, but there is a line that will definitely get you in the gut as you see how far the once loving couple has fallen. These themed that Antonioni focuses on are not easy, but they show a sense of despair towards where he thinks the world is going.
Antonioni’s final film in this loose trilogy, L’Eclisse, represents the culmination of his efforts in creating the consistent theme of an alienating modern world. Within the first few moments, a woman breaks up with her boyfriend and finds another in a materialistic stockbroker. Just like the other two films, his final chapter is a bleak look at love in an ever-changing world as people are supplanted by objects, and relationships seldom work out.
Antonioni isn’t afraid to be blunt, and the closing moments of the film are a reminder that people end up considering other’s as mere objects to their own satisfaction and are more willing to throw them away than actual objects that they buy. It is bitter, but it is nonetheless beautiful.
#32. Fellini Satyricon
Finally, our last stop in Italy, is Fellini. Known for some great films like La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2, Fellini never ceased in being original, and bizarre. Satyricon is by far the strangest of his films I have seen. Taking place in the 1st century Rome, it is filled with eroticism, violence, and pure insanity as we follow two young men who flow through a landscape of grotesque excess.
It is a strangely beautiful film that is not easy to follow. The original work, written around the time it takes place, is fragmented itself which lends into the films editing which doesn’t seem to care for continuous motion and flow. IT is a feast for the eyes, but definitely not one that you will want to watch over dinner.
Coming up next is a brief stop in England with three films from three very different directors.