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Max von Sydow
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Harry Dean Stanton,
Cold, rain, and fog surround a plant in Ravenna. Factory waste pollutes local lakes; hulking anonymous ships pass or dock and raise quarantine flags. Guiliana, a housewife married to the plant manager, Ugo, is mentally ill, hiding it from her husband as best she can. She meets Zeller, an engineer en route to Patagonia to set up a factory. He pursues her, they join friends for a dinner party of sexual play, then, while Ugo is away on business, she fears that her son has polio. When she discovers the boy is faking, she goes to Zeller, panicked that no one needs her. He takes advantage of her distress, and she is again alone and ill. Written by
After a neorealist period (Il grido),Antonioni begins his movies dealing with incommunicability with "l'avventura" in 1960,continues with "la notte" (1961) and "l'eclisse"(1962).This trilogy is in black and white and features Monica Vitti,his favorite actress -although in "la notte" she's only supporting,the main part being played by Jeanne Moreau-.
'IL deserto rosso' is more of the same ;it's even more difficult and austere than the three former movies.It is the first time Antonioni has experimented color and the results are impressive:he creates a depressing landscape where the colors are cold,drab and dirty.The depiction of an industrial dehumanized world is convincing as Vitti,suffering from neurosis,roams aimlessly along this desert(wonderful lines:her son :"the yellow smoke contains poison,the birds will die";mother: "no,they know it does ,and they don't come here anymore").During almost two hours,absolutely nothing happens,frames of mind,people holding conversations that are always incomplete,pointless actions,roads leading nowhere....
The problem is:are we moved by all that?Can we relate to this woman's despair?As far I'm concerned,only partially, not to say bluntly no.Incommunicability had already been treated by Roberto Rosselini: in "Europa 51" he put Ingrid Bergman in the same world as Vitti ;when the world pressure began too hard to bear ,she rebelled in her own way,she did not accept the society in which she lived in,nothing to do with Vitti's listless character.In " Viaggio in Italia",the invisible wall between a man and his wife (George Sanders and Bergman) was already here.This couple vibrated through their suffering and their despair,Vitti and her husband do not.Rosselini created flesh and blood characters,Antonioni's ones have ectoplasm strength:such are the two characters of "l'avventura" searching for a disappeared girl,the wealthy couple of "la notte" -who only exists because played by peerless Mastroianni and Moreau-,forgetting their ennui in their friend's palace."My characters move in a rich milieu,because their feeling are not brought about by money "Antonioni used to say.That does not prevent them from being selfish,egocentric and " I-me-mine".
With his follow-up "blow-up" ,Antonioni gained world-wide success and he continued the color experiment,as an acid green London testifies.The plot becoming completely abstract,the characters will become less important,therefore a more satisfying movie.
Until the very end,as he was disabled,Antonioni was obsessed by color:his last movie was a remake of Jean Cocteau's "l'aigle à deux têtes",with a stunning color treatment.
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