Tuesday, January 5, 2010

You Don't Watch Antonioni. Antonioni Watches You.

I finally finished watching something I'd fallen asleep to: L'Avventura, which itself is an allusive Italian word meaning both adventure and fling. The old man and I joked about the big brotherness of falling asleep during a film, the little life that is always always, hovering on the walls and your eyelids, telling you what to dream and to dream with great camera work. What played on after I fell asleep: two friends (Claudia and Sandro) become lovers while searching Italy for their friend Anna who disappears earlier in the film. You'll know they're driving around northern Italy because of the mountains.

I liked how the melodramatic affair between two friends (his girlfriend is the one who disappears) is set against their friends who represent the disenchanted members of the idle upper-class. None of them becomes overwhelmingly upset or affected by Anna's disappearance and they even go so far as to scold themselves for making a joke of it. All the while the two lovers drive throughout Italy, their selfless motivations succumbing to their passion for each other, which kind of means Anna's return is unwanted after all. Mine mine mine, Claudia tells Sandro. Those who think they feel so much often realize they feel so little. Who feels anything anyway. Is it embarrassing and beneath you to let yourself be taken by melodrama? While I was watching, I couldn't help but think of Laura Marling's song, "New Romantic." This is a pretty cute video I recommend checking out. (I love the floating "sorry" on the floor).

While the authorities search for Anna, a police captain tells a smuggler, in order for information about her, that he'll get the smuggler set up with state services because he's obviously been stealing to help his family. I know it was tongue-in-cheek (where the hell did that phrase come from anyway), for Antonioni's films were not subsidized by the state. I however can't help but acknowledge that if this were an American film, the smuggler would've been offered a lesser sentence and not social services.

Antonioni has a delicate style of filming, featuring perplexing sensual cuts. For example, just after Sandro and Claudia are fooling around outside, they drive to a strange town where Anna may have stayed. Sandro leaves Claudia outside with every man in the piazza. It used to be a thing that Italian men would stand around outside at night. This was true even in the '80's when my family lived in Sicily. (My mother had quite a time getting my sister and I to our nightly piano lessons and orthodontist appointments, without the three of us being cat-called or asked where my father was). As Claudia becomes more and more surrounded by fiery men, she realizes she's in love with Sandro and darn if she isn't ashamed he's her best friend's boyfriend. I couldn't help but think about Ruth Orkin's photograph, An American Girl in Italy and what women think about when they are in those sorts of situations. A friend of mine had the photo framed and hung in his living room and we often discussed whether or not the woman wanted the attention, if she was trying to cover herself, and the overall pressures women have to be constantly beautiful even if it garners unwanted attention.


Dan Magers said...

I thought of that photo when I saw that scene too. For some reason I made my 16 year old sister watch this with me over the summer.

Farrah Field said...

That's hilarious! What did she say about it?

The tension in that scene is so great and Vitti plays it so well. I wonder if there is a similar kind of scene depicting a man being made uncomfortable by women? Women construction workers harassing a male passerby?

Dan Magers said...

I was actually going to write what my sister said, but I forgot what it was! It was something very funny, but would have been lost in paraphrase. It was pretty witty, I will attest to that.

If there is a inverted version of that scene, I'm sure it's played for comedy.