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Red Desert (1964)

Il deserto rosso (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama | 8 February 1965 (USA)
In a bleak rundown industrial area a young woman, Giuliana, tries to cope with life. She's married to Ugo the manager of a local plant but is soon having an affair with one of his ... See full summary »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Carlo Chionetti ...
Ugo
Xenia Valderi ...
Linda
Rita Renoir ...
Emilia
Lili Rheims ...
Telescope operator's wife
Aldo Grotti ...
Max
Valerio Bartoleschi ...
Giuliana's son
Emanuela Paola Carboni ...
Girl in fable
Bruno Borghi
Beppe Conti
Julio Cotignoli
Giovanni Lolli
Hiram Mino Madonia
Giuliano Missirini ...
Radio telescope operator
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Storyline

In a bleak rundown industrial area a young woman, Giuliana, tries to cope with life. She's married to Ugo the manager of a local plant but is soon having an affair with one of his co-workers, Corrado Zeller, who is visiting. Giuliana is unstable, not quite knowing anymore just what her role is, whether that be a wife, a mother or just another person. Her escape from life is short-lived however as Zeller is simply using her to satisfy his own needs and desires. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

This is the story of a woman...Her hidden thirsts and hungers...Told by the world-famous director Michelangelo Antonioni in his first color film.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

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Language:

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Release Date:

8 February 1965 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Red Desert  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Ever the perfectionist, Michelangelo Antonioni had the natural landscape painted and smoke tinted yellow to "reinforce the sense of desolation, of death". See more »

Quotes

Giuliana: Giuliana: There's something terrible about reality but i don't know what it is.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Safe (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

 
RED DESERT (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964) ***
22 August 2007 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

Antonioni’s fourth film in a row with muse Monica Vitti sees the actress in perhaps her most difficult role yet; her co-star was Richard Harris: it was certainly interesting that the director wanted him so soon after having achieved stardom with Lindsay Anderson’s THIS SPORTING LIFE (1963) but, in retrospect, his is a part that anybody could have filled in adequately. It was ironic, then, that Harris and Antonioni didn’t see eye to eye and, reportedly, the former walked off the set (or was “kicked off”, depending on what sources one reads) and the film had to be completed with a double for its male star!

Anyway, the industrial wasteland (full of fuming factories, polluted rivers, massive steel structures, plague-ridden merchant ships) against which the events are set is supposed to mirror the lead character’s emotional turmoil; we first see her literally “scrounging for her next meal” (as Bob Dylan famously sang). Despite being ostensibly a character study, what we get – as is Antonioni’s fashion – are vaguely-defined characters and half-disclosed information (such as the nature of work in which both Harris and Vitti’s husband are involved, her own traffic accident which brought on her mental collapse, her son’s sudden and apparently inexplicable disability, the plague outbreak, and the source of the singing heard by the girl in the fable recounted by Vitti to her convalescent offspring).

As in BLOWUP (1966), the Italian surroundings here are made to seem other-wordly – as if the narrative was taking place in some forbidding science-fiction landscape; this is augmented by the electronics-infused soundtrack (occasionally interrupted by ethereal vocals, as mentioned earlier) and the meticulous color scheme (RED DESERT marked Antonioni’s departure from black-and-white cinema – in retrospect, it also emerges as one of his most haunting efforts). The film is quite long, however, and drags a bit during its second half…but the ending is, once again, inspired – with Vitti finally opening up, even if it’s in front of a foreign (and, therefore, non-comprehending) sailor.

The undeniable highlights of the piece are the Sunday afternoon outing at a remote cabin which develops into an orgy and the visualization of the afore-mentioned fable (featuring the red desert, actually pink-colored sand, of the title which symbolizes a sunny Utopia away from the contaminations of the modern world). RED DESERT won two prizes at the Venice Film Festival including the Golden Lion, the top honor, over Pier Paolo Pasolini’s THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW (1964). Curiously enough, after this, both Antonioni and Vitti went ‘mod’ in Britain with BLOWUP and Joseph Losey’s MODESTY BLAISE (1966) respectively.

I’ve been tempted to pick up the R4 SE DVD of this one – featuring an Audio Commentary and a 1-hour documentary on the director (also available on the Criterion 2-Disc Set of Antonioni and Vitti’s previous collaboration, L’ECLISSE [1962], which I’ve just ordered!) – but, since the R1 Image disc is now OOP and a number of that company’s titles have received the Criterion treatment, it shouldn’t be too long (especially now that the film-maker has passed away) before it’s time for RED DESERT to get its own re-release...

It seems to me that of the two brief retrospectives I recently embarked on, Antonioni’s has emerged as the more rewarding; some of Ingmar Bergman’s films would rate very highly on their own but, collectively, they lack the visual diversity which lends the Italian film-maker’s work its lingering fascination and compulsive aura of mystery.


11 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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