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One Row Behind ANTONIONI - The MAESTRO Live at LACMA

One Row Behind ANTONIONI - The MAESTRO Live at LACMA

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Published by Ross Care
Antonioni appears in person at Los Angeles Screening
Antonioni appears in person at Los Angeles Screening

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Categories:Types, Reviews
Published by: Ross Care on Sep 14, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/14/2013

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 Modernist Master: Michelangelo Antonioni - Film Retrospective/ LACMA by Ross CARE
Crowds were lined up around the corner to the Calder fountain side of the Bing Theater forthe September 17 (2006) screening of LA NOTTE, a highlight of a month-long retrospective,
 Modernist Master: Michelangelo Antonioni
, produced by the Film Department of the Los AngelesCounty Museum of Art. Though the nominal focus of the event was Antonioni’s 1961 masterpiece,LA NOTTE, the sold-out house was also due to the fact that this unique evening includedappearances by Antonioni himself, and his wife. Enrica Fico Antonioni. Also on this substantialprogram were two short films, a documentary, BEING WITH ANTONIONI, directed by SignoraAntonioni, and Antonioni’s own ten-minute THE GAZE OF MICHELANGELO, both screenedprior to LA NOTTE.For me personally the era in which Italian masters such as Antonioni, Fellini, and Visconticame into prominence with the “foreign film” renaissance of the late 1950s and 60s is an integral partof my cinematic past and consciousness. These Antonioni films particularly made an indelibleimpression on me, with their beautiful but bored women in impossibly chic little black dresses, andtheir brooding males torn between intellectual angst and exhausted ambition. And especially theunique black and white cinematography that captures in glowing chiaroscuro the paradoxicalmodernity and antiquity of Italian cityscapes. Never had malaise, ennui, and contemporary Italyseemed so seductive.Watching one of Antonioni’s masterpieces, LA NOTTE (1961) on Friday brought all thosefeelings back, with the added frisson of knowing the maestro himself, one of the last remaining titansof modern cinema, was sitting in the row in front of me. LA NOTTE records one night in the life of asmart and of course conflicted Milan couple, a writer (Marcello Mastroianni) and his wife, (JeanneMoreau in one of her most unforgettable performances). After the pair visit a dying friend in ahospital Moreau flees and, in a haunting and purely visual sequence, takes a walk on the wild side of 
 
Milan, cruising a seamy section of the city where she has an ambiguously erotic encounter with agroup of young males, one of which would have driven Pasolini crazy. After reuniting (and after avisit to a nightclub where they witness an incredible contortionist act by a striking black woman wholooks like Sade) the couple attends a genteelly decadent party at the home of a rich, culturallyinclined industrialist, and reach a kind of reconciliation at dawn on a misty, deserted golf course.The film is quintessential Antonioni, beautiful, vaguely disenchanted people adrift in a Milanthat at times looks like something out of a science fiction movie. But the recent short films thatpreceded LA NOTTE were equally hypnotic. Antonioni suffered a stroke in 1985 but continuedmaking films while also concentrating on painting. One of these films, THE GAZE OFMICHELANGELO, opened the evening. The 10-minute film is a purely visual study of Antonioni’sencounter with recently restored Michelangelo sculptures in an Italian church, and intimately probesboth the details of the various statues and the still handsome face of the 95-year old maestro. There isnot a word of dialogue and no music until the last few minutes of the film, but one comes away with amore intimate impression of the two Michelangelos in ten minutes -the lines and details of the firstMichelangelo’s work contrasting the aged hands of Antonioni with the ageless marble - than mostfilmmakers could achieve in a feature Especially haunting is the use of sound, or rather of Cage-likesilence, the soundtrack being mostly ambient stereophony, the sound of distant creaking doors,echoes, and church bells, all the noises one would peripherally hear (or not quite hear) in the (notquite) silence of an Italian church. When music is finally heard, an a cappella Palestrina choral
 Magnificent
, it’s a virtual epiphany.Enrica Antonioni later commented that the film took one and a half years, but really alifetime to make.The second film, BEING WITH ANTONIONI, is an impressionistic study of just that: arecord of a journey around Italy with the maestro as he works on his Matisse-like paintings(rendered by various obviously adoring young assistants) and is fed (this being Italy) and feted in

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