It’s been well over a decade since I last watched Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura, so hearing the news that the Trylon was screening a 35mm print was an exciting discovery and an increasingly rare treat due to the ongoing push for DCP (Digital Cinema Projection.)
Gorgeous black and white photography just doesn’t translate that well to digital. Those sweeping Italian vistas and beautiful people deserve to be seen in the analog realm, as originally intended.
After ten years, my recollection of the film as a whole has waned a bit. This was during a period where I’d watch at least one movie a day, something which causes me to only recall certain aspects of a certain title, similar to the Netflix TV series marathon mentality where it’s possible to watch five episodes of a series in one day and only remember certain plot points and forget the minutia. It doesn’t help that I only own L’Avventura on LaserDisc, broken up into six parts on three discs.
On a particularly cold and calm night, with lazy snowflakes drifting slowly through the air, I sat back with a nice whiskey, put side A on and watched. I was immediately enthralled and nostalgic, as if seeing an old friend. As I got up to switch to side D, something was amiss–namely, the plot, or should I say the lack of one.
Suddenly, my old friends were one-dimensional, exuding base emotions, lacking depth. I quickly realized that for these past ten years I wasn’t remembering the characters but the locations and characters’ situations, the architecture, the empty spaces, the cliffs of a rocky island, the trains, the pantyhose, dresses, suits, and the wind blowing through hair during emotional outbursts.
But that’s the point. These characters exist to explore the banal life of the bourgeoisie. They lack consequence because they don’t need to worry about money or time and can basically do whatever they want. Throughout the film, this concept is best explored by Monica Vitti’s character Claudia, to me the one person showing the most multi-faceted emotion–viewers can relate to her because she has real depth with the ability to realize consequence as opposed to Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) who seemingly exists solely to woo women.
This film, the first of Antonioni’s “space as character” period is a master class of filmmaking with amazing photography, editing, pacing and set design. The amount of effort and resolve put into each scene to match architecture, weather and clothes to the mood of the scene is breathtaking. Although the term is loosely thrown around, L’Avventura is a masterpiece and a must-see.
Patrick Vehling was raised in Minneapolis, weaned by Kurosawa, Tarkovsky and Herzog, interested in travel, linguistics, coffee, whiskey and sometimes has been known to make a film on Super 8.