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.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Summer re-runs: Il Deserto Rosso

Well, reading the reviews the most interesting films of the week are those revivals of Antonioni's RED DESERT and that 1957 WOMAN IN A DRESSING GOWN (see post below). The Antonioni has been hailed as a welcome restoration of his "bleakly intoxicating" 1964 film which is about a woman cast mentally adrift in the desolate, ash-blackened landscape of a new industrialised Italy. 

I have reviewed RED DESERT a few times already (as per Antonioni, Vitti labels). One can't take one's eyes off Vitti as Giuliana, the russet-haired, almond-eyes young mother and unhappy wife and survivor of a suicide attempt as she wanders around Ravenna - all greys and greeens. She finds a kindred spirit in Richard Harris (it should have been Hardy Kruger, who would have been ideal here) who plays the anchorless engineer recruiting staff for a new project in Patagonia, and together they embark on a sort of affair, against a backdrop of what the late Andrew Sarris called "the architecture of anxiety": smoke-belching factories, shacks hidden in the mist. Antonioni's bold modernist angles and innovative use of colour (as in BLOW-UP he painted trees and grass to tone with the industrial landscape - a whole street and stall of vegetables is painted grey to match the heroine's mood or vision of the world). This was his first use of colour.

Almost half a century on, RED DESERT, remains a film of rare beauty and brooding intensity. It is oddly placed between Antonioni's early '60s trilogy (L'AVVENTURA, LA NOTTE, L'ECLISSE) and before his English-speaking movies: his trio for MGM (BLOW-UP, ZABRISKIE POINT, THE PASSENGER), and its his last with Vitti until 1980 (THE OBERWALD MYSTERY, reviewed here recently). Vitti is marvellous as ever but Harris seems like an uninterested zombie here - Hardy Kruger (so good in Losey's BLIND DATE and Hawks' HATARI) would have brought much more to the role  ... I had thought Harris had walked off the film but according to David Hemmings' autobio (as per my post on that, Hemmings label) he caused a brawl on set punching Antonioni in the mouth and was thrown off the film, so he exits and a stand-in was used where necessary. It is good though to have RED DESERT around again.

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