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The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)
"Blood will have blood..."
Roman Polanski's notoriously violent film of Shakespeare's notorious "Scottish play" doesn't quite satisfy as it should. His bleak modernist interpretation is ultimately just too limiting, still it's certainly a bravura piece of moviemaking and can be best appreciated as such. After all, this is not really Shakespeare per se but a Polanski film: the prevailing themes of witchcraft, rampant paranoia, and finally triumphant evil pick up right where ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) left off. And life is certainly solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short in this movie -- Shakespeare's poetry takes a backseat to a surfeit of excruciatingly detailed mutilations with plenty of blades slashing through jugular veins, culminating in a truly epic decapitation. This MACBETH is a relentless homicidal debauch: Polanski displays the same technical virtuosity and gruesome inventiveness in staging the numerous murders here as he did in REPULSION (1965). All of Shakespeare's famous metaphors (e.g., `is this a dagger I see before me?') are garishly literalized and deliberately engineered as part of an escalating series of spectacular, cathartic, bloodier-than-hell set-pieces.
Visually, the film is rich and vivid: the forbidding images of rain-swept moors and twilit horizons possess a spellbinding primeval quality. And there are a few brilliant, inspired moments such as when our murderous Scot, whilst lying in his bed-chamber, broods "I am stepped in blood so far..." and the whole room is bathed in an eerie crimson light. But the scene that truly stands out is when he visits the witches in their lair and is shown his fate: it's a gorgeous, thrilling, and strikingly imaginative surrealist reverie, reminiscent of Buñuel's 'magical realism.' The actors, nearly all British stage pros, are solid and reliable. As Macbeth, morose, dark-eyed Jon Finch is really quite good -- and he certainly does have the diction for the role. But Francesca Annis' sickly nymphet Lady Macbeth is a glaring (and oh-so-characteristic) lapse in judgement on the director's part. Weak-voiced, pasty-faced, and generally irritating, this petulant, saucer-eyed little urchin has neither the skill nor the presence to adequately bring off one of Shakespeare's most formidable women. Annis' feeble performance renders the basic psychological premise of the play -- Lady Macbeth's manipulation of her husband to fulfill her delusions of grandeur -- unconvincing to say the least. Finch just looks uncomfortably stricken while Annis acts coy and childish.
All in all, Polanski's MACBETH is a decidedly thorny piece of work: since it was his first film following the murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate and friends by members of the Charles Manson cult, he seems to have had too much to prove here. He makes Banquo (Martin Shaw) Macbeth's rival and presents Ross (John Stride) as the play's eternal villain -- the faceless, blandly smiling Machiavellian 'company man' who shifts his allegiance as it suits him, crawling in and out of political woodwork at will. And by dispensing with the Bard's customary knot-tying closing speech and ending instead with an abrupt silent scene suggesting basically that the cycle of treachery and murder will spiral forever through the ages, Polanski seems to overstate his case.
Trois couleurs: Rouge (1994)
Sorely lacking in je ne sais quois...
In the third and final film of his celebrated TROIS COULEURS trilogy, Krzysztof Kieslowski demonstrates how all persons, whether they know it or not, are connected by a principle of universal 'fraternité.' Just as THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VÉRONIQUE (1991) had dealt with the parallel lives of two identical women on either side of the Iron Curtain, RED deals with the parallel lives of an old man and a young man. An elderly retired judge, Joseph Kern (Jean-Louis Trintignant), spends his days spying and eavesdropping on his neighbors with an arsenal of surveillance equipment. His malaise and dissatisfaction with life is the result of a divided spirit that is, either in whole or in part, restored by his Platonic relationship with a young French fashion model, Valentine (Irène Jacob). The film's general themes seem somewhat analogous to those in Bernardo Bertolucci and Alberto Moravia's THE CONFORMIST (1970), which also starred Trintignant, and used chronological dislocations of life experience to mirror the protagonist's dislocation of identity, offering them as pieces in the psychological puzzle of how a man comes to be what he is.
Kern's inability to reconcile with his past and get on with his present life may be a metaphor for the inability of Europe as a whole to deal with its history since World War II and confront its current situation. Similarly, his need for distractions and deliberate sublimation of personal guilt and disappointment in an obsessive voyeuristic interest with the lives of those around him may also be a reflection of how modern communications technology has altered human behavior and ways in which people perceive themselves and the world around him. Historically, it may express Wim Wenders' view that `the Americans have colonized our subconscious' as well as the broader phenomena of an effective colonization of people's lives by those of people whom they have never met through the omnipresence and pervasiveness of mass media. And so, Marshall McLuhan's 'global village' has resulted in a concomitant alienation of the individual from his fellows and of the individual from his sense of sovereign identity.
The catalyst in Kern's life is, of course, Valentine. Like Goethe's Faust, Kern ultimately abandons the pursuit of forbidden knowledge for the redeeming love of a woman. Her name, Valentine, connotes love and human companionship and, throughout the course of the film, that is what she offers him. Indeed, her life is perhaps even more of a mystery than Kern's, perhaps because she is still young and has not acquired enough of a personal history yet. Valentine's problem is that she does not have an autonomous identity of her own. As a fashion and advertising model, she is required to project to others an image of their own narcissism.
Valentine's growing self-awareness is measured in the images she constantly sees of herself like the fashion-layout photographs and the billboard. However, these are not 'true images' of herself in the sense that they have been determined by the will of others. Her increased fascination with her own face as reflected in car windows signalizes an internal change. And in the end, the artfully constructed mirror image of herself in the billboard -- an encounter with her conscious self and her double -- becomes transformed into an actual image of herself as she really is in a real-life situation by the final shot of the film. She has evolved from her former passive status as an opaque photographic object to a new serene kind of subjectivity and solipsism.
This is all well and fine but Kieslowski's film is not entirely convincing. Indeed, RED and the whole TROIS COULEURS trilogy qualifies as one of the most blindly overrated film experiments to come out of Europe in recent memory (but then again, look at the ecstatic reception some of those mediocre-to-gawdawful Dogme 95 films are getting these days). His Felliniesque emphasis on man's spiritual life is intriguing but the overreliance on 'fate' or 'chance' as the determining factor in the characters' lives - as the mysterious force that ultimately brings everyone together -- seems vague and facile. Consequently, the narrative often feels contrived and opportunistic - it just doesn't sit right and you get the impression that Kieslowski is cheating with the story, that he is groping for some kind of fuzzy-headed New Age revelation that he hasn't properly earned. It's a seductive con at first but the dialogue, particularly Trintignant's, is full of quasi-cryptic, pseudo-profound banalities (e.g., `Perhaps you were the woman I never met.') that come across as merely pompous and half-heartedly nondescript attempts at gnomic wisdom. And while Kieslowski is no doubt a master visual stylist, I am rather suspicious of his rather monotonous and all-too-obvious use of filtered light to create an atmosphere of supposed inner awareness and expectancy. His images aren't really any more interesting or meaningful than the fashion layouts and chewing gum advertisements he seems to be obliquely criticizing. As Pauline Kael once asked, `do symbols plus pretty pictures equal art?'
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)
"We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness..."
Michael Radford's utterly superlative film of Orwell's famed novel may well be the greatest cinematic adaptation of a major literary source ever -- and it stands out as one of the most memorable British films of the past thirty years. Full credit is due to cinematographer Roger Deakins who shoots everything in grainy, washed-out, desaturated colors adding to the picture's atmosphere of wistful yet austere, dream-like strangeness. The modern London settings -- with their cobblestone streets, shabby, dilapidated buildings, desolate fields, rubble-strewn alleyways, and forbidding, blackened Gothic-Victorian façades and hints of minimalist fascist architecture -- resemble a Depression-era housing project after the Luftwaffe. And Dominic Muldowney's score, with its martial clarion calls, bombastic church-organ blasts, and swelling choral leitmotiv of `Oceania, 'tis for thee,' has a mixture of Wagnerian grandeur and Bach-like religiosity about it. All the while, the bizarre, mantra-like drones of the much-maligned Eurythmics soundtrack rises and falls, weaving in and out of the narrative like so many subconscious banshee wails.
Radford treats the book's premise not as a sci-fi flight of fantasy or grim prophecy but rather as the world of 1948 seen through a glass darkly -- a kind of medieval morality play for the post-totalitarian age. There is less emphasis on the novel's musty, well-worn-and-endlessly-picked-over polemical import and more focus on the stark human element, and indeed, the actors bear such uncanny resemblance to Orwell's descriptions they practically seem born for their roles.
With his quiet, brooding eloquence and haunted eyes peeking out of a gaunt, cadaverous frame like a tubercular, ashen-faced Egon Schiele figure, John Hurt is ideally cast as Winston Smith. As Julia, Suzanna Hamilton (first seen as a lovelorn dairymaid in Polanski's TESS and as the paralyzed daughter in BRIMSTONE AND TREACLE) has a serene, arresting presence and she appears as mysteriously stirring and beguiling to us as she does to Hurt. She brings a captivating freshness and warmth to her role, a little reminiscent of a young Harriet Andersson. Her pale, wiry, broad-hipped body has a simple, unaffected, almost archetypal beauty, and in the film's more intimate moments, she radiates all the tactile sensual grace of a Munch or Degas nude.
As O'Brien, the Jesuitical inquisitor of infinite patience, Richard Burton delivers a superbly perspicacious swan-song performance he becomes almost a kind of an oracular Thanatos to Hamilton's Eros. In an exquisite, maliciously Swiftian twist of irony, Burton's famous voice, with its rich, mellifluous Welsh inflections and descending cadences of Shakespearean sonnets and Dylan Thomas poetry, becomes a cruel herald of the willful, systematic destruction of the human spirit -- of `the worst thing in the world' that waits in Room 101 in the fated `place where there is no darkness.' When O'Brien tells Winston, `you are thinking that my face is old and tired and that while I talk of power I am unable to prevent the decay of my own body,' Burton's sagging, weary face speaks volumes.
In the lesser roles, Gregor Fisher's Parsons literally resembles a sweaty frog, James Walker's Syme is the classic image of a squirrelly, mealy-mouthed hack-intellectual, while Andrew Wilde cuts the most chilling figure as the bespectacled, unblinking company man,' Tillotson. The late Cyril Cusack plays Mr. Charrington, the kindly Cockney landlord who is not all that he appears to be, with an understated sentimental charm punctuated by slight flickers of calculating menace (watch closely for the way Cusack's facial expression changes whenever Hurt is not looking at him). Phyllis Logan (the star of Radford's début feature, ANOTHER TIME, ANOTHER PLACE, and a supporting player in Mike Leigh's SECRETS AND LIES) provides one of the film's most clever unacknowledged ironies: as the Telescreen Announcer, her strident, hectoring voice suggests a more shrill caricature of Margaret Thatcher.
If anything, this film makes a unique and compelling case for some of the oldest cinematic devices in the book that nearly all contemporary filmmakers have since abandoned: slow dissolves, fades, blackouts, shock-cuts, slow motion, flashbacks, montage. The high-contrast photography, alternately harsh and low-key lighting, and iconic close-up shots evoke the abstract, transcendental purity of Bresson or Dreyer. There is even one extraordinary sequence when Winston, bruised and battered, is seen having his head shorn in a holding cell that is clearly meant to recall Falconetti's famous haircutting scene in Dreyer's LA PASSION DE JEANNE D'ARC (1928). Similarly, Burton is filmed in oppressive, looming low-angle with Expressionist shadows defining the lines of his craggy visage à la Eugène Silvain's Bishop Cauchon sans the warts. And the idyllic barley fields of the Golden Country,' where Winston and Julia have their first tryst is a possible homage to the titular peasant paradise of Dovzhenko's EARTH (1926).
What makes the film so powerful is not merely its fidelity to its source but its vivid sense of realism. NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR is such an impassioned and richly textured work that the visuals almost seem to seep into the pores of your skin, intoxicating you with dread and longing. And Radford is so adept at obscuring the boundaries that separate the ameliorative persistence of reverie from the glaring harshness of waking reality, that the film's seamless perfection becomes almost frightening.
Bittersweet and elusive...
In THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS -- based on the autobiographical novel by Giorgio Bassani -- legendary Neorealist filmmaker, Vittorio de Sica, dramatizes the human cost of the `racial laws' gradually implemented against the Jews in Fascist Italy during the years 1938-43. The more Bassani's young middle-class Jewish protagonist feels the brunt of Mussolini's anti-Semitic edicts encroaching upon him, the more he feels drawn to the aristocratic Jewish Finzi-Continis' estate -- their Edenic "garden" -- and to Micòl, the family's beautiful young daughter. Psychologically, this compulsion seems to stem from a deep emotional attachment to a perpetually innocent, untroubled state of childhood, which both Micòl and her garden seem to represent. Throughout the film, there is a marked conflict between childhood and adulthood, between the distant past and the immediate present, between the act of retreating into a world of comfortable illusions and confronting a world of harsh and bitter realities.
I found this particular aspect of the story very fascinating, although too tantalizingly obscure and open-ended -- and thus, not quite as illuminating or fulfilling as it might have been were it more clearly explained. (This could the reason why some people find the film -- and its heavily symbolic, impressionistic style -- a little confusing and underwhelming.)
For Giorgio -- both the naive hero and wisened author of the story -- Micòl embodies the mystery and allure of the Finzi-Continis, as well as their insularity and their apparent passivity in the face of the escalating Fascist crackdown. She always appears distant and unattainable, with no obvious reasons for her actions, and never really provides a direct, comprehensible explanation for her insistent rejection of Giorgio or for what appears to be a subtle streak of cruelty towards him. Her conversation with him always seems deliberately vague, and her refusal to make any further connection with him has a curious, almost perverse kind of fatalism about it. Again, this is another feature of the film that is certainly intriguing -- and strangely seductive -- but, alas, never quite pays off enough to become fully understandable to either the protagonist or the audience. When the Fascists finally do arrest the Finzi-Continis and confiscate their estate it comes as something of a surprise. The muted and deliberately spare representation of these characters and their feelings, as evidenced in their unusually restrained behavior, is meant to isolate and heighten the impact of a few devastating strokes of sudden realization and lucidity -- pointed indications that the protective spell of the Finzi-Continis has been finally broken.
All in all, well-acted and gorgeously, languidly poetic in its imagery...yet, narrative-wise, the picture seems overly elliptical and ultimately opaque -- and leaves just a few too many rough fragments and loose ends lingering at the end of the story (not quite Proustian irony, maybe?). In spite of this peculiar drawback, the film finishes very effectively, and by the final desolate shots, you are left with an unexpectedly intense feeling of loss and anguish. It is important to note, however, that the last scene -- in which Giorgio's father meets the Finzi-Continis in a detention center -- is fictitious and does not appear in the novel, and Bassani had a falling out with de Sica about this.
La règle du jeu (1939)
The grandeur and decline of Old World Europe...
THE RULES OF THE GAME takes place on the eve of World War II at an aristocratic house party at an opulent chateau on a country estate just outside of Paris where the overlapping affaires d'amour' of all social classes are observed with a keen and compassionate eye. Renoir looks to the eighteenth-century world of commedia dell'arte and Mozartian opera, and seamlessly integrates farce with tragedy, using a classical form to offer his audience a profound and multifaceted parable on the disturbing realities that underlie the veneer of contemporary French society, and which are themselves symptomatic of the nascent decline of Old World Europe.
The film opens with the arrival of a middle-class aviator, André Jurieu (Roland Toutain), who violates the unwritten `rules' of social propriety by declaring to a radio reporter his disappointment that the woman he had been courting, Christine de la Chesnaye (Nora Grégor), is not present at his reception after completing a record-breaking flight across the Atlantic. His apparent indiscretion of making public his private feelings to high society diminishes his initially heroic stature and his skill with the advanced technology of aircraft is not matched by an ability to deal with people, particularly in matters of love. His careless and unmediated show of desire for a highborn lady not only transgresses the received law of proper social conduct but of traditional class distinctions as well. André's reckless pursuit of his desire, of what he could not have, caused him to behave as one beneath his class in order to rise above his station, and in the end, he was destroyed by the overlapping desire and misguided frustration of yet another man of even lesser social status and refinement. The final killing of André is echoed in Alain Resnais' LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (1961), when we see the mysterious `M' (Sascha Pitoëff) dispatch `X' (Giorgio Albertazzi) with a shotgun for apparently having cuckolded him with `A' (Delphine Seyrig) the year before.
Renoir's approach to mise-en-scène is especially groundbreaking. He employs seamless cutting as well as long continuous takes and tracking shots which follow characters as the move from one space to the next in a manner that anticipates the graceful circling, panning, sensuously kinetic camera of Welles, Ophüls, Godard, Resnais, Bertolucci and others. He uses deep-focus compositions, avoiding close-ups by putting many actors in the frame at the same time to suggest multiple viewpoints. The balustrades of La Colinière and the languorous tracking shots down the long corridors undoubtedly inspired those in LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD while the checkered floor suggests a harlequinade and a chess board upon which the characters maneuver themselves in relation to each other -- like the similarly checkered shuffleboard floor in Antonioni's LA NOTTE (1961) or the geometrically precise arrangement of the garden in MARIENBAD. (Interestingly enough, Coco Chanel designed the costumes for both THE RULES OF THE GAME and LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD.) Like Antonioni, Renoir frames characters in architectural space, juxtaposing interior and exterior space, such as when the guests arrive at the chateau and a curtain of rain in the foreground obscures their indoor activities. Renoir's fast-moving tracking shots during the rabbit massacre are imitated in Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY with the camera ominously winding its way through the trenches of World War I. These kinds of tracking shots also serve to keep the film from becoming talky and static and to de-emphasize the importance of the dialogue in the cinematic narrative, reducing the interplay of voices to a mere din of savory bon mots' and constant stream of overlapping background chatter.
Robert de la Chesnaye (Marcel Dalio), Christine's husband, is fascinated with antique mechanical toy birds and other such gadgets and this fixation suggests an ambivalence toward nineteenth-century Positivism and how an abstract, theoretical, or scientific approach to life alienates people from the actual, spontaneous, concrete experience. In a way, Robert recalls von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim) forever tending to his geranium in Renoir's previous film, GRAND ILLUSION (1937), as well as the character anticipates Steiner (Alain Cuny) in LA DOLCE VITA, who derives more aesthetic pleasure from listening to tape-recorded sounds of nature than hearing the real thing or `M' in LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, who prefers to continuously play God in an inscrutable matchstick game which only he can win -- with the rules of the game known only to him -- instead of dealing with messy, unpredictable human relationships.
As an aristocratic Jew, Robert de la Chesnaye could be a composite of Dalio's rich young mercantile Jew, Rosenthal, and the generous, self-sacrificing French nobleman, De Boeldieu, in GRAND ILLUSION. When a chef makes an anti-Semitic slight against Robert, revealing the bigotry of the French working classes, it evokes the controversy surrounding the Dreyfuss Affair. The General's final comment that Robert is one of a `dying breed' not only heralds the decay of aristocratic privilege but, in from the vantage point of hindsight, also seems a chilling spectre of the Holocaust. Christine's Austrian origin alludes to the looming war with Germany and seems a prediction of France's collaboration under the Vichy régime. The indiscriminate destruction of life in the rabbit and pheasant hunt sequence forecasts the waste and destruction of the war to come.
Robert's comment that he `does not want any fences' separating people seems to indicate the gradual dissolution of the old class systems and nationalistic loyalties, and indeed, of all the traditional illusions about human nature and civilization that are to be swept away by the war. The most cryptic sign is the penultimate danse macabre,' echoed in the séance and ritual journey to the realm of the dead in LA DOLCE VITA, suggesting that Renoir's superficial roundelay in THE RULES OF THE GAME is really a dance of death heralding the apocalyptic destruction of the old Europe.
A parable about the possible dehumanizing effects of photography...
BLOW-UP is the story of a successful fashion photographer, Thomas (David Hemmings), who, whilst scouting for fresh subjects in a park one afternoon, photographs a mysterious couple in 'flagrante delicto.' Upon returning to his studio loft later that day, he develops the pictures and discovers that he has inadvertently stumbled upon a murder. Antonioni is not interested in the details of the murder itself, as in a typical detective story, but rather with how the protagonist's perception of the world, and his relationship to it, is altered by this event.
As a fashion photographer, Thomas is a creator of illusions that define a certain kind of young urban lifestyle and Antonioni's flagrant use of the loud, splashy, attention-grabbing colors of billboard advertising -- a visual association elevated to an unholy apotheosis in his next film, ZABRISKIE POINT (1970) -- brings to the surface the transient sensation and hollow artifice that lies at the heart of all pop culture consumerism. In his previous work, RED DESERT (1964), Antonioni spray-painted both the man-made décor as well as the natural setting as a means of giving concrete expression to the heroine's neurotic state of mind and her ameliorative aestheticizing vision of a world despoiled by technology and pollution. He does the same in BLOW-UP, painting doors, fences, poles, and the façades of entire buildings to emphasize the exhilaration and alienation that characterizes life in a large modern city.
Psychedelic colors make the 'real' world of the film seem exaggerated and hyperbolic like a fantastic 'surface' reality, while the 'captured' and reconstructed world of the photographs appears ominously stark, grainy, and documentary-like -- the bare, denuded 'essence' of reality. In the central montage sequence of the film, the camera -- in place of Thomas' eyes -- slowly moves back and forth from one photograph to the next, and likewise, Antonioni cuts back and forth from the pictures to the protagonist looking at them. Since the act of looking at these enhanced images effectively reconstructs an event that the protagonist -- and the audience -- never actually saw with the naked eye in 'real life,' technology is shown to reveal a new surface of the world that is normally hidden from view. Antonioni's own particular brand of phenomenological Neorealism is concerned primarily with the process of seeing through a camera as a way of exposing an ultimate truth, or a lack thereof, that underlies the surface of the world.
The curious self-reflexivity of this scene is an epistemological hall of mirrors: Antonioni's camera looks at Thomas looking at photographs which are blown up larger and larger so that eventually they become merely an abstract collection of dots, a Rorschach test in which almost anything can be read. Like the Abstract Expressionist paintings of the tormented artist son in Pasolini's TEOREMA (1968), the received cultural baggage and semiotic referentiality of the image is eliminated until all that remains is purest subjectivity of the spectator. And so, picture-making technology mediates reality only up to a point: once the threshold of referentiality has been crossed, the suspicion of a murder in the park gleaned from a series of enlarged photographs would seem to say more about Thomas' own paranoid state of mind than what his camera may or may not have recorded.
This subtextual aspect of the film has been compared to the controversy surrounding the various interpretations of the Abraham Zapruder film as a definitive and reliable record of the Kennedy assassination -- and particularly, the mystery of the notorious 'grassy knoll.' Also, the possible incidence of adultery and The Girl's desperate efforts to retrieve the film suggest the scandalous fallout of the Profumo affair. Vanessa Redgrave, with her thick, dark brown hair and affected temptress-naïf manner, hinted at by a schoolgirl outfit and arms folded seductively over her breasts, seems meant to evoke, for a British audience at least, then-recent memories of Christine Keeler.
BLOW-UP is full of visual and verbal non-sequiturs and nearly all the scenes are composed of long-takes with plenty of 'longeurs' and 'temps mort.' This real-time approach -- often fragmented by abrupt and seemingly arbitrary cuts -- faithfully simulates Thomas' experience and the mechanical routine of his creative process and its fleeting moments of sudden inspiration and frenzied excitement. All throughout the film there is a recurrent pattern of relationships left unconsummated and work left undone. Just as he appears on the verge of establishing meaningful contact with someone or about to finally resolve himself to some efficacious deed or another, he is immediately distracted by something else that pops up.
Thomas resembles Odysseus in the way he is continually thwarted by chance encounters, which cause him to lose sight of his mission. Indeed, the film's meandering, episodic plot does seem to have elements of classical epic: the rock concert and the marijuana party afterward all suggest a ritual journey through a modern 'Land of the Lotus-Eaters.' Ironically, it is just when he discovers a sense of emotional commitment and social obligation in his life that his self-justifying cynicism and arrogant indifference toward others is replaced by a growing sense of impotence and defeat. In the final scene, speech is phased out of the film entirely, leaving only a silent form of physical communication unmediated by language and social pretensions.
BLOW-UP was the Antonioni's greatest commercial and critical triumph and the film's narrative -- an odyssey through a modern city, following the protagonist from feigned poverty to the false security of wealth and ending on a note of final lingering doubt about one's place and purpose in the world -- seems itself a trenchant comment on the nature of success and what it does to people. By transposing to 'Swinging London' the Marxist concerns of his Italian films, Antonioni demonstrates once again that this malaise of modern life is not caused by technology and consumer culture but rather by man's failure to adapt to the conditions of the new environment he has created for himself.