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.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

II Deserto Rosso - again!

I have blogged about Antonioni's RED DESERT here a while back, but despite having the dvd, its nice to see it on television and record it to unspool again at my leisure, so here are a few more comments. THE RED DESERT is a unique film in Antonioni's career, as well as a high point of experimentation in modern cinema, coming as it does after that early '60s trilogy of L'AVVENTURA, LA NOTTE and L'ECLISSE and then followed by that English language trio for MGM. It was also Antonioni's first film in colour and it remains one of the most remarkable colour films ever made - grass, trees, a street and the fruit on a street-seller's barrow are all painted to change their natural appearance, just as in the following BLOW-UP, also shot by Carlo De Palma (who directs BLONDE IN BLACK LEATHER...) The street where Guiliana has her shop but does not know what to sell is literally drained of colour, as is the vegetable stall. Then there is the mysterious beautiful island of her story to her son and finally the anguished woman is alone with Corrado who seemingly takes advantage of her distress before he ships off to Patagonia ....

RED DESERT is of course set in that industrial landscape of oil refineries and chemical plants belching out flames and fumes around Ravenna which are affecting Giuliana's state of mind leading to her anxiety disorder. We have shots taken taken out of focus to create abstract blotches of colour, or through a telefoto lens to flatten figures onto coloured backgrounds, as Giuliana and Corrado (a very uncomfortable blank Richard Harris) conduct their affair, as Giuliana copes with her unfeeling husband and young child. I saw it descrived as a moving painting in a review the other day! Harris is the big flaw in the film, it seems he did not get on with Antonioni and left the picture before the end. Seeing him with Vitti is as incongrous as his teaming with Doris Day a few years later! Vitti looks striking with red hair and its a terrific performance. A nice touch too is the Meccano-style robot keeping watch over the sleeping child. Good too recently to finally see IL GRIDO and L'AMICHE again, as per reviews, and the new dvd releases of those fascinating early Antonioni's: CHRONICLE OF A LOVE AFFAIR and THE LADY WITHOUT CAMEILAS (Antonioni label). After RED DESERT Antonioni and Vitti did not film together again until 1980 - in the meantime her comedy persona emerged and she became Italy's top glamorous comedienne (that face, that voice) in those delightful comedies like LE BAMBOLE, LE FETE, GIRL WITH A PISTOL, THE SCARLET LADY and of course Losey's MODESTY BLAISE (as per reviews at Vitti label). She plays a totally different character in RED DESERT, its not only the red hair but also a mother and a character far removed from those blondes in L'AVVENTURA or L'ECLISSE.

Its a fascinating film to see again now, since I saw it first at that old Academy Cinema in Oxford Street London in 1965 when I was 19. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1964. Antonioni would not film again in Italy until 1980 after his ventures in London (BLOW-UP), America (ZABRISKIE POINT) and all over Europe (THE PASSENGER) and in China too. A decade later photographer Carlo De Palma turned to directing with Vitti and Cardinale together having fun in THE BLONDE IN BLACK LEATHER (Vitti, Cardinale labels)....L'AVVENTURA plays on television too next week,so that's another re-view date, as well as finally seeing THE OBERWALD MYSTERY with Vitti in 1980.

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