Characters in Search of a Soul...

Viewing Michelangelo's "L'Avventura" for the first time represented quite a turning point in my film education. It spoke to me in a way that no film had previously. I couldn't explain or understand my emotional response but I was aware of the films grandeur.  It left an authoritative dent, lingering with an essence of nobility. For days after my initial viewing, everything felt "profound". It collapsed my expected narrative designs to such a degree that I could easily understand fellow film enthusiasts being agitated at the unnerving displacement. On the surface, it shows itself as a film that surrounds its first half in mystery only to drift aimlessly away on a floating sea of unresolved conclusions. But there is so much more. 

Upon deeper analysis (of which this film begs) we see that almost every detail of the plot, surrounding landscape and passive dialogue relate heavily to the characters identities and inner most feelings... their metaphysical world. If you hear the name Andrei Tarkovsky being uttered in comparison, it would be apt. With his picture perfect compositions Antonioni's films have more in connection with art than most other cinema.

L'Avventura

by Michelangelo Antonioni

Review of the film and Criterion DVD by Gary W. Tooze

As L'avventura opens we are greeted by Anna (Lea Massari), a jaded, spoiled socialite about to indifferently embark on a ship excursion with her girlfriend Claudia (Monica Vitti) and boyfriend Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) with whom she is in a long distance relationship. Her blasι attitude is initially acceptable as we do not yet know her complete story.  After some disenchanted lovemaking with Sandro, her pain is expressed to be their lack of togetherness and indecision as to the direction of the relationship.

On the boat excursion, while anchored to swim near a barren volcanic island, Anna feigns seeing shark. She soon reveals to Claudia that she lied and for no other purpose than succumbing to a fit of boredom. For their apathy, we are gaining the sense that all of these characters on the trip could be dubbed "the idle rich". They show little to no interest in what each other communicates. As well as opening a window on this surfeit class, each object of the landscape is clearly portrayed, and forms its own separate defined area within the screen. Antonioni's flawless framing makes it all so beautiful, making our job of interpretation that much more distracting.

While touring the picturesque island with its Aeolian charm, Anna goes missing. We never know why and there is no direct evidence supporting any conclusions, but the aura of mystery is in the air. The initial concern for her soon dissolves and Sandro and Claudia begin an affair. It becomes hard to accept that these young, attractive and wealthy characters are so self-absorbed when we are used to gorgeous movie stars being the noble protagonists . As Antonioni states "I prefer to set my heroes in a rich environment because then their feelings are not determined by material and practical contingencies." In fact, there are no ' heroes' in this film, but the point is made that they have no mitigating factors to encourage their selfish behavior. Their foibles are bred through wealthy meaninglessness, not usual neo-realistic poverty and despair. In essence, these characters have nothing to overcome... no abject hardships to suppress or hurdles to leap. Because of this, we discern Claudia and Sandro's behavior that much more abhorrent in our eyes. The characters alligator tears and bluffed investigations of Anna's disappearance become an inquisition of who we are... our own superficialities become transparent and it is the viewer who is redeemed for reaching this conclusion. Antonioni's hidden skill in manipulating time and space while expressing the concealed undercurrents of his characters depths becomes rewarding to those who are cognizant of it. His images are more adept at conveying this meaningful experience than any script could have.

Lets step back. This film is not for everyone. You have to settle in a certain mindset to reach my proposed conclusions. If you do, it can be an eye-opener, if you don't it can be an eye-closer ("zzzzzzz"). I certainly don't always come to the correct inference, and still struggle to see the meaning in Godard or Hou, but this film was a revelation for me. Doing research I was not surprised to see it 2nd only to "Citizen Kane" in the 1962 Sight and Sound Poll, remaining in the Top 10 list until 1992! It is comforting to see that Antonioni is viewed as a pioneer and revolutionary in the language of cinema. Initially L'avventura was hissed at its Cannes premiere, but who, offering the masses something refreshing, is not condemned by the occasional philistine. For its beauty, language, uniqueness and pure compositions it deserves all its accolades... and more. out of

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Film and DVD Details

To put it bluntly, this DVD is perfect. Perfect Film. Perfect image and sound. Perfect extras, including a 58 minute documentary and commentary. I don't see any point in dredging up any minutia about an inconsistency here or technical fault there... simply because there are none worthy of speaking of. It would be an insult to the excellent detail that the Criterion company have put into this DVD to get anal about its outstanding quality. Liberate your expectations and see the heights of which this new medium is capable of ascending. Just buy it before it goes "Out of Print".   Now.     Right now.     out of
Full Cast and Crew for
Avventura, L' (1960) 

Directed by 
Michelangelo Antonioni 

Writing credits 
Michelangelo Antonioni (also story) 
Elio Bartolini 
Tonino Guerra 

Cast (in credits order) verified as complete 
Gabriele Ferzetti .... Sandro 
Monica Vitti .... Claudia 
Lea Massari .... Anna 
Dominique Blanchar .... Giulia 
Renzo Ricci .... Anna's Father 
James Addams (I) .... Corrado 
Dorothy De Poliolo .... Gloria Perkins 
Lelio Luttazzi .... Raimondo 
Giovanni Petrucci .... Prince Goffredo 
Esmeralda Ruspoli .... Patrizia 
Jack O'Connell (III) .... Old man on the island 
Angela Tommasi Di Lampedusa .... The Princess 
Prof. Cucco .... Ettore 
Franco Cimino 
Giovanni Danesi 
Rita Mole 
Renato Pinciroli 
Enrico Bologna 
Vincenzo Tranchina 

Produced by 
Cino Del Duca .... producer 
Raymond Hakim .... producer 
Robert Hakim .... producer 
Amato Pennasilico .... producer 
Luciano Perugia .... producer 

Original music by 
Giovanni Fusco 

Cinematography by 
Aldo Scavarda 

Film Editing by 
Eraldo Da Roma 

Production Design by 
Piero Poletto 

Costume Design by 
Adriana Berselli 

Makeup Department 
Mario Mandini .... hair stylist 
Ultimo Peruzzi .... makeup artist 

Production Management 
Enrico Bologna .... production supervisor 
Fernando Cinquini .... production supervisor 
Angelo Corso .... general manager 
Luciano Perugia .... production manager 

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director 
Gianni Arduini .... assistant director 
Franco Indovina .... assistant director 

Sound Department 
Fausto Ancillai .... sound mixer 
Claudio Maielli .... sound 
Nino Renda .... sound mixer 

Other crew 
Enrico Appetito .... still photographer 
Elvira D'Amico .... script supervisor 
Giovanni Fusco .... conductor 
Luigi Kuveiller .... camera operator 
Jack O'Connell (III) .... special assistant to director 
Technical Information

Release Information:
Studio: Home Vision Entertainment
Theatrical Release Date: March 4, 1961
DVD Release Date: June 5, 2001
Production Company: HOME VISION
Package Type: Keep Case

Aspect Ratio(s):
Widescreen letterbox 16X9 enhanced - 1.85:1

Discographic Information:
DVD Encoding: Region 1
Layers: Dual
Available Audio Tracks: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Available subtitles: English

Edition Details:
• Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
• Black & White, Widescreen
• Commentary by Gene Youngblood
• Theatrical trailer(s)
• Antonioni: Documents and Testimonials 58 minute documentary by Gianfranco Mingozzi
• Writings by Antonioni, read by Jack Nicholson - plus Nicholson's recollection of the director
• Reprint of Antonioni's statements about L'Avventura, circulated after the film's premiere at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival
• Restoration demonstration
• Widescreen letterbox format
• Number of discs: 2

 

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