MODERN LOVE: PASSION, LONGING AND THE FILMS OF MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI

Ever since L’avventura was booed at its Cannes premiere in 1960, Michelangelo Antonioni (1912–2007) has been renowned as one of the most challenging and divisive auteurs in the history of European cinema.

Emerging as a highly regarded figure of the 1960s avant-garde, Antonioni was one of the first postwar Italian filmmakers (alongside Federico Fellini) to challenge the formal limitations of neo-realism. Like so many other directors of his period, Antonioni branched out into completely new territory, forging a uniquely personal, radical and profoundly modernist approach to filmmaking, at once highly affected, deeply contemplative and boldly expressive yet full of ambiguity, play and digression. Antonioni remains one of the most revered, evoked and imitated figures of art cinema and one of the key influences – alongside Dreyer and Tarkovsky – on what is now (not unproblematically) termed “slow cinema” and the style of great contemporary filmmakers such as Tsai Ming-liang, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and Pedro Costa.

Antonioni’s cinema is most commonly noted as conveying a palpable and psychological sense of time and space, particularly through his use of the long take, and his exquisite, lingering and existentially charged framings of characters against starkly imposing urban, industrial and natural landscapes. Less remarked upon is Antonioni’s recurrent concern with the figure of heterosexual lovers: intense, often emotionally subdued relationships between men and women beset by an overwhelming sense of passion, tension, mystery, uncertainty and unease.

This season of local and imported 35mm prints focuses on a series of films which bring this latter aspect of his filmmaking into clear focus, providing us with a brilliant panorama of the ever-shifting attitudes and poses of passion and longing in the director’s work.

Presented by the Italian Institute of Culture.

February 11

7:00PM – LA NOTTE
Michelangelo Antonioni (1961) 
115 mins PG

24 hours in the breakdown of a marriage. Following L’avventura, Antonioni further explores the trials and tribulations of an alienated and unfaithful couple marooned in an unresponsive and indifferent environment. The cold beauty of Milan’s modern architecture and the murky streets through which Jeanne Moreau’s character aimlessly wanders, provide the film’s pungently moody and gauzily lit background. The extended party sequence that concludes the film is one of the highpoints of Antonioni’s career and characterises his concern with the disconnections of contemporary life, the restless boredom of the bourgeoisie, the mystery of human relationships and the discomfiting freedom wrought by modernity.

With Marcello Mastroianni, Monica Vitti and Bernhard Wicki.

35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.

CTEQ Annotation
‘La notte’. by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster.

February 18

7:00PM IL GRIDO
Michelangelo Antonioni (1957) 
116 mins

Antonioni’s first international production inaugurated and fully cemented his mature, modern, elliptical style. A sugar refinery worker (Steve Cochran) wanders with his young daughter through the wintry and desolate Po Valley landscape where the filmmaker grew up. Taking a characteristically “road” form, it is an elegy to one man’s mental disintegration when isolated from those he loves. In many ways a precursor to such later peripatetic works as L’eclisse, Zabriskie Point and The Passenger, this transitional opus, combining the ambulatory landscapes of neo-realism with a more modernist vision, is probably the director’s most underrated film. With Alida Valli.

35mm print courtesy of Cinecittà Luce.

Trailer:


9:10PM THE PASSENGER
Michelangelo Antonioni (1975) 
126 mins PG

Jack Nicholson stars as a disillusioned journalist who makes the strange decision to exchange identities with a colleague he has discovered dead in his hotel room. Antonioni’s third English-language feature is an evocatively subdued thriller and road movie (taking in Barcelona, London and North Africa). Luciano Tovoli’s arrestingly scenic cinematography is harnessed to express psychological tension in pure and dynamic visual terms, relegating conventional dependence on drama and dialogue. The concluding sequence, a precisely executed seven-minute tracking shot, suspensefully delivers the film’s final, inexplicable shock. With Maria Schneider.

Trailer:

February 25

7:00PM – IDENTIFICATION 
OF A WOMAN
Michelangelo Antonioni (1982) 
128 mins R

Antonioni’s final incontestable masterpiece recalls his epochal films of social alienation and infuses their themes with 
a startlingly frank sexuality. In a daring 
and risky move, the main character is a film director himself, and the story of 
his ensuing affairs is a discomfortingly 
ambiguous expose of masculine desire and creative obsession. With surprising comic moments and typically audacious visual set pieces, the film is both a summation and development of Antonioni’s thoughts on modernity and the entropy 
in human relations. Brilliantly shot by 
Carlo Di Palma.

35mm print courtesy 
of Cinecittà Luce.

Trailer:


9:20PM – ZABRISKIE POINT
Michelangelo Antonioni (1970) 
110 mins M

Antonioni’s most visionary work is a massively expensive, impressionistic view of late ’60s American materialism culminating in one of the most extraordinary explosions ever captured on film. Featuring several audacious set pieces including a rhapsodic lovemaking sequence in Death Valley and an ambiguously staged university shooting, Antonioni’s characteristically abstract anti-establishment reflection on tumultuous times was co-written by Sam Shepard, Antonioni, Tonino Guerra and Clare Peploe and memorably scored by such acts as Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones and John Fahey. With Rod Taylor.

Trailer:

CHARISMATIC AGITATORS AND FLAWED GENIUSES: THE CINEMA OF PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON

Lauded by the American Film Institute as “one of American film’s modern masters”, Paul Thomas Anderson (1970–) staked his claim amongst contemporary cinema’s most agitating and exciting auteurs with his Academy Award-nominated indie drama, Boogie Nights.

Raised a Roman Catholic, Anderson’s body of work, comprised of disparate but fascinatingly interconnecting characters and profoundly networked narratives, continues to examine the dysfunction of families and relationships, isolation, regret, and the role of destiny and chance. After initially making movies on a Betamax video camera at age 12, he had written and directed his first film, a 32-minute mockumentary inspired by an article on porn star John Holmes, by the time he was 17. The Dirk Diggler Story, which would later serve as the inspiration and “blueprint” for Boogie Nights, came from his provocation that pornography “could” and “should” be a genre of legitimate filmmaking. Walking out on his formal film education, calling its canonical curriculum boring, like “homework or a chore”, Anderson watched films, listened to audio commentaries and wrote his own screenplays, garnering technical experience through piecemeal work as a production assistant on television movies, music videos and game shows in Los Angeles and New York.

This season charts Anderson’s rise as one of the greatest American directors to emerge over the last 25 years, and attests to both his profound immersion in the cinema of such significant mentors and influences as Robert Altman (for whom he acted as “stand-by director”), Martin Scorsese and Jonathan Demme and the singularity of his own vision of the messy intersections of modern life.

February 5
OPENING NIGHT

February 12 – February 26
VITTORIO DE SICA: CINEMA, ITALIAN STYLE

March 4 – March 18
LIGHT AND SHADOW: THE MERCURIAL STARDOM OF MARLENE DIETRICH

March 23 – April 6
CAST A DARK SHADOW: THE BEAUTIFUL SADNESS OF DIRK BOGARDE

April 13 – April 29
THE BIG CARNIVAL: THE FILMS OF BILLY WILDER

May 6 – May 20
“LIFE’S PARADE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS”: DOUGLAS SIRK

May 27 – June 10
WILDFLOWERS: DANCING, DESIRE AND FREEDOM IN THE FILMS OF GILLIAN ARMSTRONG

June 17 – July 1
DRIFTING STATES: THE FILMS OF APICHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL

July 8
AT HOME IN THE WORLD: CECIL HOLMES, ACTIVIST FILMMAKER

July 15 – July 29
HIROSHI SHIMIZU: FORGOTTEN MASTER

September 2 – September 16
JEAN COCTEAU: THE POETRY OF DREAMS

September 23 – September 30
QUEERING THE ARCHIVE: THE CINEMA OF BARBARA HAMMER

October 7 – October 14
GALLOWS BACCHANALIAS, FRACTIOUS FAIRY-TALES AND THE RULE OF THREE: THE CINEMA OF JURAJ JAKUBISKO

October 21 – November 4
REACHING BEYOND THE FRAME: THE POETIC CINEMA OF ABBAS KIAROSTAMI

November 11 – November 25
BORSCHT, SAUERKRAUT, GOULASH AND LEMONADE: AN INTRODUCTION TO OSTERNS AND RED WESTERNS

December 2 – December 16
THE LAND IS OURS: YOUSSEF CHAHINE