MICHELANGELO EYE TO EYE (Michelangelo Antonioni, 2004) ***
This 20-minute short is Michelangelo Antonioni’s true final film and, for a master film-maker who has peerlessly studied (over almost a 55-year period) the inability of people to communicate between one another, it is appropriate that his last characters are himself – who has been debilitated by a stroke and deprived of speech and most bodily movement for practically 20 years – and the “inanimate” statues found in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
It is also fitting that a modern artist who has carried all his life the first name of one of the greatest artists the world has ever known, Michelangelo Buonarroti, should seek to pay tribute to his “ancestor” through his own medium of expression. And so it is that, ‘through the magic of cinema’, we see a frail Michelangelo Antonioni ‘make his way’ slowly through the empty Basilica and find himself a place where to observe in pensive solitude and from a close but respectful distance the figures sculpted by Michelangelo in the 16th Century, the most prominent of which being that of Moses.
The film mostly has the camera gazing, panning or tracking incessantly over every detail of the awesome statues and occasionally show us the interaction between the two ‘entities’, even down to taking the exact same camera position from each other’s viewpoint. Antonioni occasionally makes some jerky hand movements as if dumb-founded by what he is seeing but, then, his ‘disembodied’ hand is seen caressing the statues and feeling the tactile nature of the sculptor’s artistry. I cannot profess to be anywhere near the ideal person to describe Buonarroti’s work – sculpture, painting and classical music have always been too highbrow for me and best left for the cognoscenti to appreciate – and, for all I know, this may be the most boring and pointless piece of celluloid ever shot for the uninitiated. But for the admirers of the two Michelangelos (but especially Antonioni), this is essential viewing. There have been finer cinematic swan songs, no doubt, but possibly none have been as moving.
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