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July 31, 2007

A couple of thoughts on Michelangelo Antonioni


I feel sideswiped by the one-two punch of the deaths of Ingmar Bergman, and now Michelangelo Antonioni. By coincidence, I picked up Story of a Love Affair, Antonioni's first feature, from the Denver Public Library last Friday. There are others who can analyze the film better than I can. What I can say is that one can see the elements of future Antonioni films - the doomed love affairs, the empty spaces, even photographs that hide more than they reveal.

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Lucia Bose in Story of a Love Affair (1950)

As Michael Guillen can testify, I've even flown across an ocean to see some rare Antonioni films. I wrote about I Vinti almost four months ago. Hopefully it won't be too long before someone makes that film, along with Antonioni's other film made in 1953, The Lady without Camileas, available on DVD.

Watching Story of a Love Affair, I was thinking first how the film developed with a plot line similar to something from a James Cain story. From there I was thought how a few of Antonioni's films are mystery stories of sorts. Consider how in The Story of a Love Affair and Blow Up are about the misreading of clues that were supposedly documented by photographs. A woman disappears in L'Avventura and her friends forget about looking for her. One man switches identity with a dead man whom he vaguely resembles in The Passenger and no one seems to notice. As James Brown wrote for Senses of Cinema, Antonioni was mostly interested in the personal mysteries of his characters.

antonioni and argento.jpg
Michelangelo Antonioni at the screening of the restored Story of a Love Affair, greeted by Dario Argento

Posted by peter at July 31, 2007 03:14 PM


I'm so pissed that I was too darn broke at the time to attend that amazing bay area Antonioni respective. It must have been wonderful to see some of his rare stuff on the big screen.

Thanks for sharing that pic of Argento and Antonioni. I've never seen it before.

Posted by: Kimberly at July 31, 2007 07:31 PM

I'm sorry I wasn't able to see you at the PFA, Kimberly. The shot of Antonioni and Argento is actually a screengrab from the second disc of The Story of a Love Affair DVD set.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at July 31, 2007 08:42 PM

Thanks for letting me know! The Story of a Love Affair is one of the Antonioni films I still need to see.

Posted by: Kimberly at August 1, 2007 04:40 PM

That's a great Lucia Bose' screengrab, Peter! (Should have used it for my own post a couple days ago...)

You're right about those mysterious and empty spaces of Antonioni being present even in his early features--I felt the same way as I watched Cronaca. I love the shot when the detective is leaving the one apartment (having just posed as a friend of Bose's father and trying to get information from Bose's old friends), and the husband says something angry to the effect of, 'I can't believe we've been living under the same roof this long' and the wife looks out the window at the departing detective ... and the bars of the window are like the prison cell of marriage. Funny and disturbing.

Posted by: Zach at August 2, 2007 11:17 AM

I am glad now that we caught the Antonioni shorts, Peter.

Posted by: Maya at August 3, 2007 03:05 AM