Amoeblog

Michelangelo Antonio Dead

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 31, 2007 10:05pm | Post a Comment
Michelangelo Antonioni died yesterday. He was partially paralyzed by a stroke in 1985 and unable to speak for the last 22 years.

 

He began his career in the 1930s but really began to make a name for himself in the 1950s. While his peers made gritty, immediate neo-realist films focusing on social issues and the struggles of the poor, Antonioni used film to examine the space between bourgeois characters with a highly refined and stylized directorial aesthetic.


In 1960 he released L'Avventura starring the iconic Monica Vitti. It was a radical departure from European film before it. The film remains an amazing depiction and evocation of alienation and dread. Its title is seemingly ironic (although "avventura" also means "fling," apparently, in addition to "adventure").

Antonioni's subjects were almost always aimless, wealthy and unhappy. The films invariable had very long takes, minimal dialog and a surface that prevents the viewer from coming up with easy answers to Antonioni's implied questions.  L'Avventura and his subsequent films practically filled the screen with emptiness. Il Deserto Rosso (1964), his first color film, remains one of the bleakest and most beautiful films I've ever seen. I'm sure Criterion will "present" it in the months to come. It also has one of Giovanni Fusco's best scores, mostly consisting of disconcerting electronic beeps and belches (and silence), not to mention amazing Carlo Di Palma's amazing and ground-breaking cinematography.


He went international with Blow-Up and Zabriskie Point, which many find dated and less sophisticated. They focus on characters in Mod and Hippie subcultures respectively; their inauthenticity betrays them as the work of an outsider and yet their charms are still considerable.


He continued making films into his 90s. I haven't seen any of them. I'm more interested in his '50s and '60s output for now.

If you're like me, where endless explosions and cars flipping over and over like some out-dated screensaver puts you to sleep, whereas long, slow, methodical films like those made by Tarkovksy or Kiarostami stimulate you, then Antonioni is someone whose films you need to check out.

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marking the beginning of a new venture -- or, my first post

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 26, 2007 11:49am | Post a Comment
I finally got around to watching the most recent 北野 武 Takeshi Kitano dvd the other night-- 2005's  Takeshis' ...

It concerns an established actor, Beat Takeshi, and his crossing paths with a struggling actor, Takeshi Kitano. A significant number of the cast play dual roles, which I was embarrassingly slow to comprehend, given the fairly confusing abstractions within film. As Beat Takeshi, Kitano plays himself as boorish and self-important and satirizes his own artistic conventions to comic effect. In his film-within-a-film, he plays a bandaged yakuza character. Annoyed by cicadas at his Okinawan hideaway, his character "unexpectedly" shoots his girlfriend before turning the gun on himself.

The second half of the film grows even less conventional. Sometimes it just seemed strange for the sake of being strange. It moved toward abstraction like David Lynch's last few films have, as if to bait the deluded fans into comparing their own narrative reconstructions. I started to lose a bit of interest at that point since that kind of "artistic innovation" became pretty cliché long before my parents even met.
One ingredient I quickly realized was possibly detracting from my enjoyment was the absence of longtime musical collaborator Joe Hishaishi (or, Hisaishi Joe, Mamoru Fujisawa's Nipponized version of "Quincy Jones"), whose moody, jazz and Japanese-influenced scores have always contributed to the tone of Kitano's previous films so complimentarily. I guess Takeshi Kitano and Joe Hisaishi got into it on the set of the amazing Dolls a few years back and lamentably ended their artistic arrangement. Apparently, Kitano saw Hisaishi walking in the rain with Hayao Miyazaki.

 


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