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Seven Reeds, One Suit (1948)

Sette canne, un vestito (original title)
A short documentary on the production of rayon, shot in Torviscosa (Italy). It portrays the production of this new synthetic fabric in the small town of Torviscosa, entirely built following strict fascist canons.

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(as Michelangiolo Antonioni)
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Storyline

A short documentary on the production of rayon, shot in Torviscosa (Italy). It portrays the production of this new synthetic fabric in the small town of Torviscosa, entirely built following strict fascist canons.

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Genres:

Documentary | Short

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Release Date:

October 1948 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Seven Reeds, One Suit  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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The film, for long time thought lost, was found again at the Cineteca del Friuli and in 1994 was restored in a Dutch laboratory. See more »

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Beautiful early Antonioni short
12 April 2006 | by See all my reviews

Although Michelangelo Antonioni's feature films were almost all entirely against everything the neo-realist movement purported to be (Il Grido (1957) being the exception), his early documentaries always possessed hints of the movement. His documentaries were always about the working class, from the street cleaners of N.U. (1948) to the river workers in his first documentary, Gente del Po (1943). In the way he stuck unabashedly with the working class he resembled his apprentice, Roberto Rossellini, for which Antonioni would write Un Pilota Ritorna in 1942. Antonioni would later be quoted as saying he was always decidedly against the political fixations and aesthetic indifference of the movement, but said ignoring the movement was an impossibility when trying to make films in post-war Italy.

With Rossellini planted firmly in cheek, Antonioni would make twelve documentaries about various components of the working class, before jumping into the upper class venues of his feature films starting with Cronaca di un Amore in 1950. Although his attention to beautiful location filming has always been a component of his work, Sette Canne un Vestito (1949) is probably the most accomplished of all his documentaries. Chronicling the harvesting and eventual manufacture of rayon, a new post-war synthetic fabric, Antonioni's cameras roll in two locations that would be very influential on his feature film career – the Po Valley and Torviscosa's industrial plants.

The trees along the Po river would end up serving as a significant backdrop for Aldo's melancholic journey in Il Grido and are shot with a similarly caged-in aesthetic. The workers in Sette Canne seem like prisoners behind the wall of Po river trees. More interesting though, is Antonioni's fascination with the machinery and pollution inherent in the industrial manufacture of products. Several shots predict Il Deserto Rosso (1964), from the symmetric and distant shots of buildings with all their crisscrossing deco to his unwavering obsession with the properties of smoke. Like in Il Deserto Rosso, a worker is engulfed entirely by a massive dispelling of smoke, demonstrating his insignificance and vulnerability to the greater industrial, capitalist whole. A low angle shot of a smoke stack suggests the masculine power inherent in Italy's fascist renaissance.

Sette Canne un Vestito is too beautiful to be deemed neo-realist – every shot seems handpicked and fabricated, although Antonioni claims he would never direct his working class subjects. Of all his work though, this is probably the most influenced by the neo-realist movement, capped off with a subversive dig at fascism. After the film spends all its time with the working class in their struggle to get these fabrics manufactured, Antonioni ends off at a bourgeois fashion show. He cuts together several shots of glamorous women coming down the runway in the very materials the proletariat worked so hard to produce. It is a total slighting of all their hard work, and Antonioni makes sure to make apparent the greedy disconnect of the upper class, and how much of the proletariat's work is abused by the few in power. Antonioni would try to shy away from politics in his films, but Sette Canne is probably the most overt he will get in his slinging of the upper class, which thus makes it his most neo-realist work.

At only ten minutes it is a short and sweet taste of the director's themes and visuals to come, a must-see for Italian art-house fans. With or without subtitles it matters not, for the power of Antonioni's images transcend all forms of written or spoken communication. His documentaries would always possess a beautiful tribute to the humble lands of his birth, and Sette Canne un Vestito is arguably his most beautiful.


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