Wednesday, February 17, 2016

On Italian Film: They Who Make the Greatest Show of Love May Suffer its Slings the Most

Scenes from Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Awentura

He loves his wife, not the woman here -- she also loves his wife (maybe) and then slides into an affair with him.  All the while, they and others are searching for Anna, his missing wife who craves a freedom away from a marriage that she concedes she can not live without.

Who but the Italians?   Who better then they, the world's most celebrated lovers, to understand the crushing limitations of what E.M. Forster in his book A Passage to India dismisses as "carnal embracement."  .

Antonioni's films (my favorite is The Passenger, reviewed here elsewhere) cast the human figure in  sweeping landscapes.  Perhaps he views humanity as forever doomed to a shared loneliness. The director shuns musical soundtracks, favoring the sounds of life. 

Claudia, like all the others in her party, is out looking for Anna, who drifted away during their visit to an island on a Mediterranean boating trip.

In a way, they are all alone, always searching for something.  Perhaps this is a constant that haunts the human condition.  In my view, Antonioni is one of a few directors to prove that cinema is as great an art form as any other.  Oh, those Italians.

The ones here are rich and blase. Not uncommon for a young Italian male to be taken to a brothel (up to half of them) to be introduced to the mechanics of it all.  No wonder they seem fixated on the fleeting heat of an affair.

Young love on the brink.  We know he will have her.  She knows he will have her.  They have already passed the point of no return.

This great 1960 film was hailed by critics for bringing a new language to cinema.  Sandro, unable to find Anna,  sinks into an affair with Claudia, and soon after goes out on her, unable to break free of an endless cycle of sexual conquest.  When Claudia discovers him with a tart, he is left a devastated and pitiful man.  It is all a part of the cycle.

Sandro returns to Claudia.  And she will take him back.

How savvy that the Italians, who make such a swaggering spectacle of love, should also be the ones to show how desolate are the spaces of time and desertion between and around it.  Like The Passenger, this film feels more like a lived-through experience than a movie.  

Doomed, at least together.   

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