31 July 2007 | IMDb News

Michelangelo Antonioni, the Italian film director whose modernist style created such haunting, enigmatic films as L'Avventura and Blow Up, died Monday at his home in Italy; he was 94. Antonioni had suffered a debilitating stroke in 1985 which gave him limited speech capabilities and curtailed his directing abilities, though he continued to work, most notably on 1995's Beyond the Clouds, after his stroke. Born in Ferrara, Italy, Antonioni graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in economics but went to work for a local newspaper as a film writer and critic. Moving to Rome during World War II, he collaborated with Roberto Rossellini on A Pilot Returns and began making short documentaries. His first full-length film, Story of a Love Affair, was released in 1950, and he found his breakthrough with 1957's The Outcry, where he met actress Monica Vitti, who would go on to star in his famed film trilogy of emotional alienation: L'Avventura, La Notte, and L'Eclisse, released from 1960-1962. With these austere black-and-white films, seductive and amazing to some and puzzling and mysterious to others (L'Avventura and L'Eclisse both won the Jury prizes at Cannes), Antonioni established himself as one of the premier international filmmakers of the time, alongside fellow countryman Federico Fellini and other emerging directors of the '60s such as Roman Polanski and Ingmar Bergman; he was considered such a fixture of the time that he was even mentioned in lyrics (alongside Fellini and Polanski) in the seminal musical of the '60s, Hair.

In 1966, Antonioni found box office as well as critical success with Blow Up, the story of a London photographer (David Hemmings) who believes he may have accidentally captured a murder on film. The quintessential portait of the swinging '60s, the film featured a luminous Vanessa Redgrave and, most notoriously, an imaginary, silent tennis game played between two sets of white-faced mimes. While some shrugged, others continued to celebrate his success, and Antonioni received two Academy Award nominations for writing and directing Blow Up. That film was followed by the notorious flop Zabriskie Point, an existentialist rumination in Death Valley featuring amateur actors, but Antonioni then rebounded with The Passenger, starring Jack Nicholson as a journalist researching a documentary in the Sahara, now considered one of his best films. Antonioni made only a handful of films following The Passenger, and worked only in a limited fashion after his stroke, though he surprised critics and audiences with 1995's Beyond the Clouds, which producers would only back with the stipulation that director Wim Wenders follow the filming in case Antonioni faltered. Though he was only able to speak a few words, the director was able to communicate effectively with his crew and actors; the same year Beyond the Clouds was released, he received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement. Antonioni is survived by his wife, Enrica, whom he married in 1986. --Mark Englehart, IMDb staff


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