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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
"Il Deserto Rosso" should be more known among Antonioni's fans - it's a remarkable film - in the beginning we see a woman (Monica Vitti) with her little son wandering in an industrial landscape.............. She's married to the manager of the factory. She is losing her direction and sinking into panic and despair. Her husband, friends and even her little son are not enough for her to recover her sense of identity. She even tries an affair with a friend of her husband. Still....
Maybe the story in itself would not be sufficient to raise one's interest, but the way Antonioni tells it makes this film an interrogation mark concerning man and modern society. The bleak colors of the landscape mixing with the fog and the smog are a portrait of her (and ours, why not?) loss of points of reference. Reality becomes mixed with dreams but not all of this is shown in the film. Some of it is implied. Some of it is shown - like when Giuliana (Monica Vitti) is with husband and friends by the sea and the fog slowly makes the others' faces look strange and nightmarish.
Giuliana lives near the industrial concern (managed by her husband) - a small town in the vicinity, a solitary sea, a dock and some ships in it, big chimneys expelling smoke and foggy nights & days complete the picture. Memories come and unfold - good and bad - some of them described in her own words, others evoked by images and words that have the taste of a fairy tale. Insanity seems to be knocking at her door and life is so far away. Drifting with the wind and waves of life - if only someone could help her! "Il Deserto Rosso" flows in a natural way
we forget that we are seeing actors and become immersed in the film.
Antonioni is a great actor's director and I think he knows how to extract the best from them.
The DVD had a bonus where I watched the interview of Antonioni made immediately after the film's release. For my surprise he showed himself a simple kind of man. He didn't employ big words to define his film and revealed a sense of humor. This was the time during which Antonioni had a relationship with Monica Vitti (a superb actress) and in the few words he used he gave me the keys to his direction technique, that is, to create an ambiance where the actors can feel at ease, let them feel their roles and make them give their best.
Antonioni had their followers in Brazil too. The more remarkable of them was Walter Hugo Khoury that with "Corpo Ardente" (1966) made a Brazilian "deserto rosso" - a good film but far less good than Antonioni's.
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