Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh, no! Just over the wires: the news that Michelangelo Antonioni has died!

I can't even begin to process this. With Bergman, his passing was (vaguely) anticipated. Hell, he anticipated it! But Antonioni had been plagued with such bad health over the past two decades, yet he continued... he never said that this was going to be his last movie, he kept trying to work...

But it's hard. There are some movies which you love the minute you see them, and there are other movies which you may admire, but you don't just love....

I remember this because in the summer of 1964, when i was 10 years old, we didn't go to Bradley Beach, we just stayed in the city. I think one of the reasons is that we had just moved into Chatham Green; it was a coop, we'd been there for about a year, and my grandparents moved in with us for a few months, because my grandfather had gotten sick (cancer) and died. So anyway, the summer of 1964 was the first one where we didn't go to Bradley Beach, we were just in the city....

And i was so happy! Going to the Jersey shore for the summer wasn't exactly the most exciting thing to do, and being in the city... there was just so much to see and do!

That was the summer i discovered the Thalia, and the Elgin, and the New Yorker, and on and on. Janus Films did something a little unusual that summer: they rented out the APA Phoenix Theater in the Times Square area (now, i can't remember exactly where it was, but i have a suspicion that it was where the Marriott is now) and showed their collection. The program changed every day, and you could buy a booklet. I remember getting two booklets so i could see something like 20 films.

This brings me to the films you love (immediately, no questions asked) and the films you admire. Among the films i admired (but didn't love immediately): "The Seventh Seal", "Wild Strawberries", "Nights of Cabiria", "Rashomon", "Jules and Jim", "Grand Illusion". Among the films i loved immediately: "Breathless", "Ugetsu", "Day of Wrath", "Rules of the Game" ... and "L'Avventura". (I also went to the Thalia: if you got there for the first show of the day, which was usually at 1 PM, it was a quarter! 25 cents for a double bill! What better way to spend an afternoon?) From the Thalia, my favorite double bills that summer included: Resnais's "Muriel" and Demy's "Bay of Angels"; Dreyer's "The Passion of Joan of Arc" and Bresson's "Diary of a Country Priest"... i remember the two days i spent watching two trilogies: Pagnol's "Fanny" trilogy, and Ray's "Apu" trilogy.

But i just loved "L'Avventura" from the first time i saw it, and every time i've seen it since, i've had the same feeling. What was it? It was the mood of desolation mixed with the swank of the high life depicted, the glamorous way people seemed lost in their own problems. I loved it!

And Antonioni didn't disappoint. I loved his early films, "Cronaca di un amore", "La Signora senza camille", "Le Amiche" (i really love "Le Amiche"), "Il Grido"... and the films which followed "L'Avventura", "La Notte", "L'Eclisse", "Red Desert", "Blow Up"... i think "Zabriskie Point" is often visually stunning, even if it's dramatically incoherent.

Even when his movies got flossy and even silly (like his section of "Eros"), there were still moments of incredible visual beauty.

When Bergman died, i was trying to think of movies of his which i really wanted to see again. (Actually, one is "The Devil's Wanton", which i remember seeing in the 1960s, and haven't seen since.) But Antonioni... i could watch his movies again and again, especially "L'Avventura" and "La Notte" and "L'Eclisse".


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