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Red Desert (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I just watched the BFI Import Blu-Ray last night and what a wondeful film! Unforunately, not available from Netflix even on standard DVD but if you can import, it is a "must see" for all cinemaphiles.

RED DESERT (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964, Italy) Giuliana has become an empty vessel, her internal gyroscope deformed, her soft voice a hollow discordant plea submerged in an ocean of despair, and her emotional affect the metal language of machines. Director Michelangelo Antonioni uses bright vibrant colors to offset the drabness of Giuliana’s inner world; he wraps her in a cold dense fog of desperation and hopelessness. The film is constructed around her vague perceptions and undefined suffering as she spirals deeper into the vortex of an untreated mental illness. She is married to a successful businessman and has a child but this seemingly perfect life is kept afloat by surface tension, this precarious balance of her emotional thermodynamics. Giuliana becomes isolated from the world, detached from others and alone in a crowd, when she speaks it seems reflexive and passive, her physical actions pre-programmed and manufactured. When she has an affair with Zeller, her husband’s colleague, she is victimized because he takes advantage of her weakened emotional state. Antonioni films the tryst without love, using the cold steel bed frame to create stark right angles, the physical act very mechanical. The soundtrack utilizes foreground effects such as a lonely tugboat whistle or the jet-stream explosion of steam from a factory’s vent to contradict long periods of silence. This industrial montage of sounds produces an aural dichotomy that represents Giuliana’s split from reality. The rusting intertwining pipes and hulking steel of the factories and shipyards are painted in bright living colors while she is dressed in dull greens or black, breathing life into this static non-living matter. Antonioni lets his camera linger on polluted pools of sludge and piles of industrial detritus before cutting back to his characters; the whole effect is to subtract from the character’s humanity, to make them seem less important in the very environment that they caused, and have become by-product of their own devices. Antonioni shoots in medium long shots with empty space between characters, separating them from each other with expertly fabricated compositions. Giuliana is ultimately lost; diminishing in the foreground while a giant smokestack vomits yellow poison. (A)

message 2: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments Nice review, Alex!

I'm not sure if I told you this or not, but nearly two years ago I watched this film, and L'Avventura and L'Eclisse with the sound off and composed about 40 sketches that I later developed into compositions for trio. This film was the easiest to compose for - the visuals, like all of his films, really, are so strong and so evocative. You did a nice job of picking some important images to cite.

I really like all of his films (well, the ones I've seen). I'm not so hot on Blow Up. I think L'Avventura might be my favorite.

message 3: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments I would love to hear your compositions!! I had never seen this before and was thinking how this played almost like a silent film. The dialogue was minimal and unimportant and there is no score, just the sounds of the factories and shipyards...or vast silences. It's very cool that his movies, which are so visual inspire you to create and explore new themes and ideas. That's what living is all about:)

message 4: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments i want to preface this by saying i wasn't out to make a "better" soundtrack, and i would never intend to play with them in the background. it was more that the films are so strong visually - they really do read like silent films. so i composed stuff that was merely meant to say, hey, i was inspired by this, so here's some music.

the trio has been trying to figure out what pieces we're going to record - i wrote 40, but we've only rehearsed about 20. 6 or 7 would be enough for an album, so we're trying to pare it down. once we get it recorded, i'll send some stuff your way. we had a really great show recently, and the bassist recorded it with a little handheld - if the recording quality is good, i'll send it to you.

message 5: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Nov 11, 2008 02:45PM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 851 comments Cool, thanks Phillip!!
My film mentor (or as I say, my Cinementor) is bringing over L'AVVENTURA Friday night. I've never seen it so can't wait for the experience.

message 6: by Phillip (new)

Phillip | 10722 comments i look forward to hearing your thoughts on l'avventura! i wish i could watch that one with you.

it is such an example of SUPREME film-making. the images are so beautiful....a very hypnotic film experience. and the ending sequences...omg, you're in for a treat.

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