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L'Avventura - 1960


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L’Avventura (1960) is the first of director Michelangelo Antonioni’s trilogy.  It was followed by La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962).  The three films explore a post-war ennui among the young and fairly well-to-do.  Characters listlessly go through life, weighed down by existence, with too many options at their disposal, and too many “things”, material and otherwise.

 

In L’Avventura, Anna (Lea Massari), her friend Claudia (Monica Vitti), and lover Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) set sail on a yacht to islands off the coast of Sicily.  Anna reveals she has grown tired of Sandro, having refused his marriage proposals.  She prefers a long separation, a year, or longer.  Anna doesn’t make things easy.  She’s distant one moment, only to drag Sandro off to bed the next.  She yells “shark” while swimming, scaring the other bathers, only to later confess there was no shark.

 

Taking a break from the water, the characters make their way to an island.  They walk around, admiring the rocky terrain.  And then, suddenly, Anna vanishes.  Was she the victim of foul play?  Suicide?  Some kind of joke?  An exhaustive search ensues.  A newspaper article mentions a sighting of a person fitting Anna’s description.   But every lead turns into a dead-end.

 

Meanwhile, Sandro and Claudia grow closer as Anna recedes from memory.  Claudia feels ashamed of her attraction to Sandro.  She sends him away, but it’s only a matter of time before surrendering herself to him. Somehow, this romantic triangle never veers off into melodrama. Antonioni’s deliberate pacing, and the actors’ lived-in performances, makes the Sandro and Claudia union feel like a natural and expected outcome.

 

It would be easy to label Sandro a philanderer.  Rather, he’s someone who needs the companionship of a woman, and finds comfort in symbols from the past. He marvels at the beauty of Sicily’s ancient structures, contrasting them with modern buildings that only last for about ten years, before being torn down. 

 

In the second and third acts, L’Avventura becomes Monica Vitti’s film. Her insight and tenderness provide warmth to an otherwise cold picture.  She practically devours Sandro as the two of them kiss in the grass.  It’s one of the most exquisite scenes in the film.  Antonioni shoots L’Avventura in a washed out black & white, with long takes.   His camera settles on Monica Vitti like a fetish.  (She was part of the entire trilogy.  And he’s quite proud of her).

 

The film ends with a hint of reconciliation between Claudia and Sandro, after his betrayal of her with a high-priced prostitute, Gloria Perkins (Dorothy De Poliolo).  This was the same woman that earlier brought Messina’s traffic to a standstill.   The insidious emptiness that afflicted Anna has crept its way into Claudia.  In an upscale hotel in Taormina, she’s repulsed by a formal dinner party taking place.  She sends Sandro off alone to mingle, so she can sleep. There, he’s a sitting duck for the predatory Gloria Perkins.  Perhaps life’s injustices and offenses, while painful, offer content, and are better than feeling nothing at all.

 

L’Avventura is a chilly and ponderous film.  It runs two and half hours.  But it packs a wallop.  Antonioni leaves unanswered questions to the viewer.  The film’s reputation as a classic of Italian cinema, and European cinema for that matter, is well deserved.

 

 

 

 

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L'Avventura is a wonderful film, one of my favorite Antonioni films (Blow Up  is the other one).

I like in these movies how he includes  scenes and images seemingly unconnected that actually add to the story, to the mystery of the unresolved story.

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L'Avventura is a wonderful film, one of my favorite Antonioni films (Blow Up  is the other one).

I like in these movies how he includes  scenes and images seemingly unconnected that actually add to the story, to the mystery of the unresolved story.

That is a great point.  At first Gloria Perkins was just another American poser craving attention.

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Antonioni's trilogy is a masterwork of Italian cinema -

 

my preferred list -

 

1. "L'Avventura"

 

2. "Eclipse"

 

3. "La Notte"

 

His people seemed to be trapped in an alien landscape.

 

Below, the memorable ending of "L'Avventura" - a simple gesture loaded with meaning -

 

tumblr_inline_msi0yjqFLd1qz4rgp.png

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