A documentary on China, concentrating mainly on the faces of the people, filmed in the areas they were allowed to visit. The 220 minute version consists of three parts. The first part, ... See full summary »
Twenty-three years after L'Avventura (1960), Michelangelo Antonioni returns to Lisca Bianca Island. The rarefied atmosphere of Lea's disappearance is recalled by some audio excerpts from the original movie.
If this was a Hollywood film, starring a Rita Hayworth, it would be one of the famous ones. I don't like to use this line of thought but I find it apt here. The story is classic tragedy and the payoff in the end, the parting shot especially, overpowers like Sunset Blvd. It's only a footnote in the scheme of things then because we find it in the filmography of this particular director, a titan of cinema equaled only by a select few.
In an early scene here we get a marvellous sketch of how movies create their icons. The producer and director fuss over the young movie starlet in a rehearsal, telling her what to wear, how to move and kiss, how to exude sex appeal. The girl allows herself to be swept up in this, ostensibly because the promise of being a face in the crowd is alluring.
A few instances after rehearsing a scene where she makes out in a bed, we see her getting kissed by the man who pressingly courts her. Antonioni gives us a masterstroke here, framing the couple against a blank canvas, projected upon it we see the shadows of movie lights and a grip setting them up. Like the rehearsal scene that preceedes it, this too is a fabrication, orchestrated for a camera and audience.
A lot of the rest is melodrama, competent if sometimes iffy. It may seem outrageous by our standards that a girl will concede to marriage the way Carla does here, but perhaps it reflects the times. The marriage is overbearingly hopeless though, a picture of sadness.
When the film assumes power again for me, is when we see this young girl, shaped as a person by the movies, be broken by them. The scene builds up to a harrowing climax, with faceless crowds of extras waiting their roll call in a Cinecitta backlot, garish movie sets of sword-and-sandal flicks, the hubbub of movie people. Carla loses herself in this furore, once again allowing herself to be swept up.
The overwhelming sadness of the finale is not simply that she acquiesces to too much because, though weak-willed, she's not a ditz. She's quietly spirited but unsure, a fragile, delicate thing thrown in with the lions, having been torn by two men who used her for their desires. It's that Antonioni leaves her there, to a cruel, loveless fate, and she deserves better.
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