The Legend Of Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni’s reputation as a filmmaker derives from an approach to cinema so contemplative in its beauty that it could be described as ‘ambient.’ The screenwriting and performances are prominent, yet the subtle energies of films are so seductive that the viewer is enveloped to savor their grandiosity, or feel the sting of their bitterness. His work penetrates the misguided values of society, its alienation and perversity, by a visual command crafted with artistic mastery.

L’Avventura introduces us to the barren, yet sumptuous, existence of Anna (Massari) – a beautiful young girl from a prominent Roman family. During a yachting party including her lover (Ferzetti) and best friend (Vitti), Anna mysteriously vanishes on a remote island. The film levels to a depth of Noir-like mystery, with layers of satire on the decadence of high society. The majestic costume design soothes the stifling desperation, and the performances – notably that of Vitti – betray the complexity of the suffering psyche with an irresistible magnetism.  Landscapes become as characters through the sublimity of cinematography, cyclopean Roman mansions and bleak volcanic islands seem to house vague malevolence in a film with no ostensible antagonist.

In Zabriskie Point landscape again takes on a pivotal role in Death Valley, its desolation is transformed into a radiant paradise where life can only flourish when removed from the economic and political crises of late 1960’s America. The film opens in a Los Angeles replete with billboards and lush interior design, among Marxist students hungry for revolution but unable to mobilize toward it. Mark (Frechette), weary of the ineptitude of his circle, steals a plane and escapes to the desert where he meets Daria (Halprin), a wayward hippie in search of spiritual meaning. The two converge blissfully in their exile, punctuated by the film’s famous desert orgy sequence, and move toward their catastrophic destinies in a culture where their ideals of liberation can never be realized. The countercultural ethos of the film is enriched by the music of John Fahey, The Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd.

tBoth films are as relevant today as during the time of their production. In a society where our private existences are threatened by the ubiquity of social media and the obsession with public approval, L’Avventura reveals an interior wasteland where true intimacy becomes impossible. It shows us the grandeur of wealth and the incessant need for greater luxuries as a compulsory escape from our eroding character. Zabriskie Point reflects our own times of political upheaval and spiritual starvation. Metaphysical understanding is hunted through sensuality and exoticism, but deprived of its substance and meaning. It denotes the dangers of becoming idle in political ideology and its dissolution of individual purpose; and depicts a society inhospitable to popular enlightenment and empowerment, whereby it only wreaks violence upon itself.

L’AVVENTURA (1960) – Screening Saturday, January 21st at 4:30pm

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Cast: Monica Vitti, Gabriele Ferzetti, Lea Massari
2hr 25min

ZABRISKIE POINT (1970) – Screening Sunday, January 22nd at 4:30pm

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Cast: Mark Frechette, Daria Halprin, Rod Taylor
1hr 40min

For a full  schedule of films at the Roxy Cinema, visit www.roxycinematribeca.com. For general enquiries, please contact 212.519.6820 or email info@roxycinematribeca.com

Words by M.Pellerano