Tuesday, July 16, 2013

L’avventura at Film Forum

A newly restored print of L’avventura is playing at Film Forum and there are problems with it. To begin with, you can barely read the subtitles. But "let’s go to the video tape" as Warner Wolf used to say and revisit some of the themes of this seminal work. In a key sequence at the beginning of the film Anna (Lea Massari), the girl who iconically disappears, tells Sandro, her lover, “When someone is there facing you, that’s all you get.” She’s in despair when they are apart for a month at a time, but she prefers separation’s imaginative possibilities. It’s the territory of Kierkegaard’s Diary of the Seducer and Sartre’s La Nausee with a touch of Bovaryism thrown in. But then Antonioni turns off the current. There’s nothing like an unexplained disappearance to pull the rug out from under mankind. In fact, the Ur disappearing act is the absence of God. Here we have the Southern hemispheric version of Bergman’s The SilenceAs Sandro (Gabrielle Ferzetti), Claudia (Monica Vitti) and the others on their boat search the island, Antonioni begins his exploration of distance and scale. The theme of painting runs through the movie. There’s an early cut between Anna and Sandro and a group of American tourists discussing painting, then in a later scene where Claudia is being stalked by men in a piazza she runs into a paint store and asks for a can of blue and there’s the wonderful scene where Sandro intentionally lets his pendant knock over the ink well of a young artist attempting to capture the ornate arch of a church. Antonioni famously said to Rothko, “your paintings are like my films. They are about nothing...with precision,’ The early scene with the figures crawling across the rock strewn island and then the classic urban scenes culminating in the de Chirico like image of Claudia running frantically down the hotel hallway in search of Sandro, who has fallen into the arms of an American prostitute named Gloria Perkins (Dorothy De Poliolo), are all the visualization of the notion of closing the gap, the exists between men and more specifically between man and the enormity of things. It’s not love or even really lust, but some primal fear that brings the figures in Antonioni’s landscape together. When Sandro is caught in flagrante by Claudia, Gloria asks for “un piccolo ricordo,” a small souvenir or memory. Sandro throws some money between her legs as he chases Claudia to the film’s famous climactic or anti-climactic scene. But the lovely words linger with you. Yes, Gloria is a whore, but even she wants to be remembered.

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