In yesterday’s posting, in listing the cinema giants still alive after
the death of Ingmar Bergman, I added, “I’m sure I’ve left some out.” Well, yes.
The ignored elephant in the room was Michaelangelo Antonioni, but regrettably
that is no longer true. Today he died at the age of 94.
His passing hasn’t been as noted as that of Bergman -- on the CNN
website , for example, it’s featured below such more
pressing and important news stories as the end of the show “Simple Life,” the
final dissolution of the Spears-Federline marriage, and Star Jones admitting, at
last, that she had gastric bypass surgery. And, of course, the resurrection of
Drew Carey’s career via game show hosting (“In a couple of months he could be
But, though lower profile, Antonioni may have been the greater and
more significant artist. He is at least, I'd argue, more challenging: the formal starkness
and abstract intensity of films such as “La Notte,” "L'Avventura," “L'Eclisse” and “Red Desert” demand more
concentrated — and detached — viewer participation
than the emotional, even melodramatic workouts of say, “Scenes from a Marriage.”
More than Bergman, his eye framed the alienation and angst and the elusive
beauty of the human condition in the world today.
Personally, I have a warm spot for both directors. While Bergman
turned me on to death with “The Seventh Seal,” Antonioni warmed me up to sex, or
at least adolescent voyeurism, with “Blow-Up,” the first X-rated film I sneaked
into. Looking back, I see it as a masterpiece of mood, formal beauty and hip posturing undermining
all faith in the validity of perception or the cetainty of knowledge. But way
back then it was all about the Purple Paper Scene, for which I will be eternally grateful.