Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

L'Eclisse, revisited (for Martin Bradley)

L’ECLISSE in 1962, one of THE key movies of the early '60s arthouse scene, and seen as the final part of Michelangelo Antonioni's early '60s trilogy, sees Monica Vitti at her peak as Vittoria and the film is all about her and her reactions to the people and events around her. Her solitude in her apartment, her ending with one lover (Francisco Rabal), the Rome financial markets as her mother gambles on the stock exchange, how she follows a man who has lost huge amounts, her pleasure in the air flight among the clouds, and getting involved with the brash young stockbroker, Alain Delon, who has no problems at all, apart from the drunk driving his car into the river.

Individual sequences stand out like where she and neighbours play at being in Africa and that well-known final sequence as the camera turns up at the lovers’ meeting place but they do not as life goes on and we study inanimate things like street lights, are endlessly fascinating. There is a sense of dread, as this is the early 60s and the nuclear age. There is so much in these films that one can’t really gloss over them, but Monica is marvellous here and is really the epitome of early 60s chic. It’s a timeless look and the film is an enduring classic.

For a film heading for 50 years old it is a surprisingly 'modern' film. A characteristic Antonioni sequence is the flight from Rome to Verona in the aircraft - nothing happens in the conventional sense, the journey has no dramatic aim or climax, it just is, but it conveys the mercurial Vittoria's elation and also isolation. Then there is that brief affair with Piero and then, after arranging their next meeting, both characters slip out of the film, as neither turns up but the camera does. For a full seven minutes it records the world that carries on without them as the streets empty and darkens as day turns to dusk. This is an extraordinary sequence: Antonioni seems to be saying that people and events are transient, that only places last. Other lives which we know nothing about cross the screen and disappear leaving in the end just the city continuing to function automatically as street lights come on and darkness falls... its as powerful as the end of THE PASSENGER or indeed any of Antonioni's films!

As ever Antonioni’s use of space and landscape and how characters move and fit in it repays several viewings. Sound plays an important part too – the wind rattling the railings here is as evocative as the wind sighing among the leaves of the park in BLOW-UP.

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