Archive for September 7th, 2021

 © 2021 James Clark


    There is a supposition, in mature film feature production, that the director calls the shots because he or she knows passionately what needs to be disclosed. Michelangelo Antonioni, an icon for many, has handsomely benefitted from the rather feudal strictures whereby a mere screenwriter becomes a dime a dozen, and all the couth comes to the likes of Antonioni. Well and good, if the boss man delivers. I certainly imagined that Antonioni had delivered. Now, I don’t.

After a very tardy study, I’ve realized that Antonioni’s films of the 50’s (which I barely noticed), were sentimental melodramas, precisely what a patrician/ aesthete with an influential father could manage, for a middling career. (Moreover, in a trump card, he often came to construct a suicide hand. Take that, cruel world!) That was why Ingmar Bergman loathed him. But he missed the brilliance to come. A film like Il Grido (1957), does have much to offer. But it’s not what we can’t do without. We began to find Antonioni films to be necessary only after Tonino Guerra became part (a very big part) of the picture.

Guerra’s family emerged as illiterate farmers. He, himself, chose poetry over farming. During the War, while Antonioni dabbled with rebellious leaflets and became arrested for it and quickly released by his father; Guerra, also, a rhetorical enemy of fascism, spent two years in a German jail for it. The ensuing involvement, as you might imagine, was not friendly. Not friendly, but productive.  (There are documents to indicate that they seldom had a day without a flaming and protracted blow-up. Antonioni unready to grow up; and Guerra ready to delight.) The genius of Antonioni being actually the genius of Guerra, not simply in dialogue, but even more critically, the marshalling and pacing of manifestation. (more…)

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