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April 02, 2007

I Vinti


Michelangelo Antonioni - 1953
Minerva 35mm Film

Jet lag is keeping me from taking as much advantage of the film scene here in San Francisco. When it comes to having to make make choices, rarely available films by Michelangelo Antonioni trump everything else. Ideally, I would have seen I Vinti with a clearer head, but I trekked out to the Pacific Film Archive with a perhaps misguided sense of mission.

The film is actually three short stories about post-war youth and murder. If this were an American film, the poster would scream, "Ripped from today's headlines!". Antonioni is more understated than that in his introduction, which exposes someone far more conservative than the filmmaker who would make Zabriskie Point sixteen years later. The three protagonists are all middle class young men, each who murders someone without thought of the consequences. Each sequence takes place in a different country - Italy, France and England. The spoken language is post-dubbed Italian. It is, to be sure, one of Antonioni's lesser films, but is worth watching for nascent themes.

The characters range in age from high school seniors to early college age. With his portrait of middle class youth, Antonioni has taken a different track from other films at that time which portrayed youthful criminals as primarily lower-class and uneducated. Where I Vinti is of interest is in presenting the students when they are with each other. The young people are shown as self-absorbed, shallow, and callous. Especially in the French sequence, it is easy to imagine these kids growing up to be Alain Delon or Monica Vitti in L'Eclisse, or the travelers of L'Avventura. The murders that take place are almost beside the point, which is why the film met with censorship problems. Antonioni's heart and head are more interested in portraying the sense of alienation that his characters feel, from their homes and families, and from each other.

The varying degrees of indifference of the three murderers also suggests that Antonioni may have been seeking to create a filmic equivalent to Albert Camus' The Stranger. That Antonioni has been linked with Camus is not new, especially in discussion on The Passenger. The main difference would be that Camus' character of Meursault is more self-reflective than Antonioni's young men. Although not referring to the auther in connection to this film, Antonioni has perhaps left a clue regarding his own motivations: The principle behind the cinema, like that behind all the arts, rests on a choice. It is, in Camus' words, "the revolt of the artist against the real."

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 2, 2007 12:01 AM


My goodness, for someone who's jet-lagged you sure write intelligently!! If it were me I'd be babbling something like, "Look at the pretty pictures." Heh.

Now I'm glad I bought you the ticket because, as Susan Oxtoby mentioned, it was a major coup on her part to have I Vinti included in PFA's retrospective. The Antonioni family wasn't going to allow it at first. So it was a rare screening and it's great that you got some comments down.

As you know, I went off to watch the "other" Italian--Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires--in a fabulous pinked-out with green scratches print that made me ponder the necessity of spending $22,000,000 to achieve the grindhouse effect.

It was great seeing you, Peter, albeit briefly.

Posted by: Maya at April 2, 2007 12:53 PM