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Michelangelo Antonioni: Confronting the Modern World with Style

January-February 2019

One of the world’s most adventurous and widely respected filmmakers, Michelangelo Antonioni profoundly influenced cinematic style, mood and outlook.

Introduction by season programmer Geoff Andrew

Michelangelo Antonioni: Confronting the Modern World with Style

Introduction

January

“Until the film is edited, I have no idea myself what it will be about... Perhaps the film will only be a mood, or a statement about a style of life”
Michelangelo Antonioni

With their groundbreaking style and distinctive worldview, the influential films of Michelangelo Antonioni feel strangely timeless.

Never really a neo-realist, the former critic quickly established himself with a striking series of features notable for their visual elegance, narrative subtlety, and cool yet compassionate fascination with people striving to find satisfaction in a modern world devoted to material wellbeing, ‘progress’ and fleeting passions and fashions. Wary of melodrama and genre, Antonioni focused on mood, gesture and environment; silence was as meaningful as dialogue, and figures moved through landscapes that spoke volumes about longing, spiritual listlessness and solitude. In 1960, with the controversial L’avventura, his importance as an experimental innovator was recognised internationally: with its enigmatic characters and ambiguous storylines, its long shots and long takes, its chic costumes, distracted dancing and casual sex, modern art-cinema had truly arrived.

Geoff Andrew

February

“My work is like digging, it’s archaeological research among the arid materials of our times”
Michelangelo Antonioni

Our tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni continues with his move into international filmmaking – though he still experimented with each new work.

Established, after L’avventura, La notte and L’eclisse, as one of the world’s most adventurous and widely respected filmmakers, Antonioni found he could draw on bigger budgets. Red Desert, his first colour film, was notable for an extraordinary expressionist palette suggestive of psychological torment and environmental malaise. Then, persuaded by producer Carlo Ponti to make English-language films abroad, Antonioni focused – if that term may be used of such loose, delicate, mysterious storylines – on social change, moral uncertainty and personal disillusionment in Britain, America, North Africa and Europe; his curiosity about the effect of politics on everyday life is also evident in his documentary on China. Finally, the later films display his enduring interest in visual and narrative experimentation, alongside a growing fascination with eroticism. Innovation and enigma remained integral to his work to the end.

Geoff Andrew

Re-release

  • The Passenger

    The Passenger

    Jack Nicholson is excellent as a jaded journalist who swaps his identity – with dangerous consequences.

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