L’avventura Screen 21 articles

L’avventura

1960

L’avventura Poster
  • Though once compared to Psycho, made the same year and also about a couple searching for a woman who mysteriously disappears after featuring heavily in the opening reel, Antonioni's film could not be more dissimilar in tone and effect... If it once seemed the ultimate in arty, intellectually chic movie-making, the film now looks all too studied and remote a portrait of emotional sterility.

  • Similar reaction to La Notte—magnificent for about an hour (in this case, roughly until Claudia makes Sandro get off the train), diminishing returns thereafter. Obviously, the returns are supposed to diminish in a narrative sense, but a certain weariness creeps in formally as well, especially compared to the electrifying stasis on the island.

  • L'avventura's biggest innovation is its mid-film abandonment of its initial plot, though that's been historically overemphasized; even near the end, Anna's spectre instigates guilt, Sandro & Claudia are still trying to avoid her dad as they go off, etc. Visually it's not a clean break from the work preceding it, arguably less radical than Il Grido in that respect (less insistent on an industrially pock-marked landscape).

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    The Village Voice: Andrew Sarris
    March 23, 1961 | The Village Voice Film Guide (pp. 29-30)

    ...Every shot and bit of business on L'Avventura represent calculation of the highest order. The characteristic Antonioni image consists of two or more characters within the frame not looking at each other. They may be separated by space, mood, interest, but the point comes across, and the imposing cinematic theme of communication is brilliantly demonstrated.

  • Many films are called “classic,” but few qualify as turning points in the evolution of cinematic language, films that opened the way to a more mature art form. Michelangelo Antonioni’sL’Avventura (The Adventure) is such a work. It divided film history into that which came before and that which was possible after its epochal appearance. It expanded our knowledge of what a film could be and do. It is more than a classic, it’s an historical milestone.

  • Forty years ago, the film struck audiences mainly with its freshness, and it can still have that effect today. It surprises with its insights: characters do unexpected things in unexpected places, but in a way that provokes recognition—yes, that does happen, though it doesn’t conform to the way we think things ought to happen.

  • Perhaps L'Avventura was deemed immoral because Antonioni himself remained unconcerned with the moral order of things yet no film has ever pondered the rootlessness and alienation of modernity with such breathless pictorialism.

  • Antonioni's stunning compositions and choreographic mise en scene, punctuated by eerie silences and shots that linger expectantly over landscapes, made him a key Italian modernist director of the 50s and 60s, perhaps rivaled only by Rossellini. This haunting work—the first in a loose trilogy completed by La Notte and Eclipse—shows him at the summit of his powers.

  • None of the characters find strength in faith. The old church and friendly nun contrasts with an earlier explicit image in the sepulchral-white town of Noto: a shuttered, abandoned modern church. Claudia’s cry returns only a hollow echo of herself. This is not Antonioni’s most subtle imagery, but its virtues – unambiguous, direct and forceful realisation of ideas, rather than construction of metaphors – can’t be ignored.

  • When "L'Avventura had its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, that ambiguity provoked both catcalls and a special prize; its ambiguity delighted, enraged, bored and confused audiences and helped liberate film from one of the cherished conventions of classic narrative cinema, specifically that we have to know exactly what happens when a story ends (and why).

  • One of L’avventura’s many remarkable qualities to note now is its staying power – its ability to astonish anew after repeated viewings . . . What makes L’avventura the greatest of all films, however, is its assertion, exploration and expansion of the concept of the ‘open film’. This had been Antonioni’s great project ever since he started out as a filmmaker after an extremely interesting career as a critic (like Godard).

  • Through his then-groundbreaking usage of negative space and his compositional de-emphasizing of the individual in favor of indifferent landscapes (a tactic recalling Giorgio de Chirico), Antonioni created, as the Cannes jury put it in 1960, a new language of cinema, one that perfectly expressed a modern alienation that's as enduring as the film.

  • It’s the journalist’s contact that propels Claudia and Sandro on the next leg of their search—and that contact makes the movie burst into a second cinematic life a full hour and a half into the action, gives Antonioni a moment in which he discovers a new style that orients the rest of the movie, and, for that matter, the rest of his career.

  • Always fusing neo-realism with science-fiction, Antonioni’s world is one of superfices and emotions hardening into titanium; communication is a set of enormous church bells connected across wide distances by flimsy ropes, remembrances are just a name for money tossed at a prostitute’s feet.

  • ...L’Avventura is full of young, youthful, warm-blooded people stuck in sterile and inhospitable landscapes. It’s just that there’s something inside these people—some desire or need or capacity—that the world beyond them doesn’t account for; or, more radically, that there’s some absence inside the people themselves for which their barren surroundings are just a convenient mirror or a visual corollary.

  • It’s difficult to think of a film that has a more powerful understanding of the way that people are bound to the world around them, by what they see and touch and taste and hear . . . I see it, more than ever, as a movie about people in spiritual distress: their spiritual signals are disrupted, which is why they see the world around them as hostile and unforgiving. Visually, sensually, thematically, dramatically, in every way, it’s one of the great works of cinema.

  • Vitti, with her placid face and narrow eyes, gives the character a far-off stare. She seems to see through everything—not to the other side, not to any solid ground, but at least past the surface. She doesn’t just anchor the film. She embodies it, right through to her final act, a gesture so graceful and cathartic it recalls Ozu. Manny Farber, among others, criticized Antonioni’s aloofness, but L’Avventura is no statue. The narrative remains defiant, but the humanity is overwhelming.

  • L'Avventura is a disappearing act, but what vanishes isn't only a woman, but all of the cultural baggage entailed, with the filmmaker providing a proto-feminist, male-helmed screed of self-indictment, soon to be taken up in spirit by Ingmar Bergman with Persona, and perfected decades later by David Lynch in Mulholland Drive. Antonioni seeks to implode any clear dividing line between social place and the subjects addressed by them.

  • Though it keeps a cool emotional register, the film is nonetheless revolutionary for its refusal to engage in the conventions expected of it. Bosley Crowther had it right that Antonioni was dealing only with what interested him, but he couldn’t quite come around to the thought that that’s what a great artist does, however much it cuts against the grain. World cinema eventually caught up to L’Avventura, but for a time, it had the rest of cinema choking on its dust.

  • Antonioni’s audacious camera placements (like this divided final composition) cut off or conceal part of the setting, obscure part of a body or a face, or deny the audience the object of a character’s attention. . . And as the characters roam in and around various places, Antonioni’s acute attention to detail puts forth so much in the interior spaces as well as the exterior locales that one contemplates without any clarification their presumed, but by no means obvious, significance.

  • It's been called alienating, but I’m not sure I agree. Alienation is certainly one of its themes, but as a movie — especially seen on a big screen — it’s hypnotic. Antonioni was searching for a new way into the world of the film — one focused on landscape, architecture, gestures and movements. So he pulls you in with those striking compositions, his graceful camera movements, and his attention to sound. And, of course, with his attention to the human face, particularly Vitti’s.

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