Friday, August 03, 2007


It seems apt to be a few days late in talking about a master of elongated silences and empty spaces.

The eeriness of his death on the same day as Ingmar Bergman’s produces a disorientation fitting to Michelangelo Antonioni. At a time when we were being overwhelmed by the post-war neo-realism of Rossellini, De Sica and Fellini, he stopped us in our tracks with “L’Avventura,” “La Notte” and “L’Eclisse.”

Making an art of dislocation and loose ends, his films drew us into experiences of alienation rather than dramas about it, puzzled sometimes to the point of exasperation but often powerfully moved.

In 1961, Sight and Sound polled 70 leading critics from around the world, and they chose “L’Avventura” as the second-greatest film ever made, after “Citizen Kane.”

But where Bergman’s genius flourished in new directions, Antonioni’s withered. Alienation is not fertile ground for growth. After “Blowup” in 1966, many of his admirers lost interest.

At the Democratic Convention in 1968, there were rumors that Antonioni was there with a camera crew. They turned out not to be true, but it would have been wonderful to have had his vision of American society at a moment when it was breaking apart.

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