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In the suburbs of Rome, the translator Vittoria breaks her engagement with her boyfriend, the writer Ricardo, after a troubled night. Vittoria goes downtown to meet her mother, who is addicted to the stock market, and she meets the broker Piero on a day of crash. The materialist Piero and the absent Vittoria begin a monosyllabic relationship. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Some US exhibitors were so perplexed by the non-verbal ending that they simply chopped off the last 7 minutes, now regarded as one of the seminal scenes in Antonioni's entire oeuvre. See more »
What did you do last night?
I had dinner with seven or eight billion lira.
Or was it a call girl?
Who has time to go out with call girls? I'm the call girl.
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Like a personal blend of quasi-bourgeois drama filmed in a meticulous, documentary-implied style
While The Eclipse is one of the most superbly directed films I may have ever seen, on a first impression it was (obviously) a lot to take in all at once. As with his other films, L'Eclisse isn't for everyone. But Antonioni distinguishes himself here as a great artist of the medium by not only creating the kinds of compositions (lensed by Gianni De Venanzo, who worked with Antonioni on Il Grido and La Notte as well as the WW2 documentary Days of Glory and Fellini's 8 1/2) no one could ever justifiably imitate correctly, but creating a depth to the substance. On one hand one aspect of L'Eclisse that's appealing is how it balances out the style and substance (though the style is arguably the more distinguishable and greater than the two). On the other another aspect is that it could put off viewers not terribly familiar with Antonioni's psychology (which, like Scorsese for example, is at least consistent and engaging with the rest of the director's catalog of work). How intently he gets inside Vittoria's head, and at the same time maintains a detachment despite the varying emotional contexts, is extraordinary, if highly personal.
Like Vittoria, Antonioni does something that's fascinating throughout the film - though one doesn't know what it is exactly that holds Vittoria, and for that matter Piero, in their respective attitudes, one doesn't feel quite left out of anything heart-stopping for the story/character's sake. The film lets us in just enough as to no keep us curious, and it also doesn't keep itself in a depressive tone, as it is realistic to how the people in this city exist. In fact, there's another facet to L'Eclisse which especially worked for me - the poetry that slips itself in small doses amid the visual sweep. Whether it be one of the long takes, an elongated view on a building or street-light, or on Vitty as Vittoria, it's in the observation that subtext forms. This is the kind of motion picture that a shot-by-shot analysis would serve like would a Picasso or Chagal.
And as a plus to the film's success are the actors turns - Monica Vitti is the only actress from that period and country I can think of who could've pulled off what Antonioni wanted in Vittoria. Her face, after being in front of us minute after minute, becomes familiar despite her inner-angst. She knows what Vittoria's fears and loss of vitality means for the story. She's not a person without a laugh or smile ever, yet those emotions arrive only after the known mood is peeled away like a layer of skin. "To love I think one shouldn't know the other," she says, almost arbitrarily. "But then, maybe one shouldn't love at all." Is this Antonioni hitting the hammer on the head, or is it just one of those kinds of comments a woman like her would make? As in L'Avventura, there is the mystery around the female lead. Is love beyond her reach we might wonder, or has the idea of it vanished under false pretense? Alain Deleon also deserves credit for his Piero, as he counters her quiet, more fogged demeanor as a stockbroker in Rome. That under current to the story - the major bustle and noise of the gamblers in the stockbroker's hall - is also part of the contrast, to the stretches with minimal dialog and sound.
The last act, which regards Vittoria's relationship to Piero (a time after he empty break-up with her past lover Rodrigo) culminates in an astonishing feat of storytelling and film-art. As it becomes all the more evident neither one will arrive at a certain (usually) desolate cross-road corner to meet up, the idea of an eclipse over these people and places is hypnotic, unique. For its time it must've been quite a stroke by a director, and forty or so years later the whole sequence leaves its effect in due. Haunting formations beneath and surrounded by the sky and clouds, and it's a bit intellectually loaded. There can be any interpretation for this climax (or as one could claim an anti-climax) that isn't manipulated by Antonioni. The sequence, as with the rest of the film, asks only to see the world based on how one would think it can, or will, be seen. And it fits memorably, like bedroom slippers, into the prime of Antonioni's career as an auteur.
Among the three films in Antonioni's films from this period of his career (1960-1962), this is the one I'd recommend the highest. The Eclipse is also the kind that's nearly mandatory to see more than once if sincerely interested in checking out at all (in other words, don't watch it with pre-conceived notions of this being a dramatic love story with solid conventions to it).
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