Monday, October 27, 2008

The Great Movies: "L'Avventura"

Michaelangelo Antonioni, 1960

More mid-century European existentialism, about more rich people suffering from zee ennui. Filmed beautifully but without a trace of wit or humor, L'Avventura is the worst of the parade of like-minded movies we have seen in this project. From its flat emotional affect to its shallow, insufferable characters; from its smirking refusal to offer a plot to its implication that the boredom of rich twits is the major problem facing humanity, this is exactly the kind of movie that has trained generations of Americans to hate foreign film.

Ebert tells us that the film was booed at Cannes before being given an award, and that its status in the United States was largely due to its being championed by the great film critic Pauline Kael. He admits that he disliked the movie for decades before finally warming to its depiction of loneliness and alienation. I think he was right the first decades. Depicting loneliness and alienation is shooting fish in a barrel; all you need to do is frame expressionless people in a spartan landscape and put windy noises at the soundtrack. Antonioni does this well enough, but so what? It's directors who can provide a story with real, believable characters who are earning their keep, and it's providing insight into the human experience that is a worthy achievement. L'Avventura does none of the above. It is well-filmed twaddle.

Plot: Some rich people experience ennui while yachting in the Mediterranean. One of them disappears. This is no biggie for the viewer, since the characters are all interchangeable anyway, and it doesn't seem to be too much of a concern for them either. The remainder in the movie deals with them reacting to the loss of their comrade in assorted highly improbable but very photogenic ways.

The title, incidently, means "The Adventure." But there is no adventure. Deep, dude.

Visuals: Impeccably filmed in black and white.

Dialogue: Melodramatic ham for disaffected intellectuals.

Prognosis: I watched this movie so you wouldn't have to. You're welcome.

Update: Mrs.5000 points out that Antonioni also directed Blow-Up, which I disliked. But it sure looks good next to L'Avventura.


Christine M. said...

I think " un'avventura" also means a love affair in Italian.

Michael5000 said...

That seems pretty plausible. It would give the title a whole 'nuther layer of cheap irony!

Anonymous said...

I think most everything in Italian can be translated to "love affair" in English. The good life. Except guanciale, of course, which means "fatty bacon prepared from cheeks of a pig".

Chance said...

Man, I absolutely hated this movie, and I'm a foreign-film-lovin', black and white appreciatin', classics-diggin' snob.

It was a snorefest.

Michael5000 said...

guanciale 1. fatty bacon prepared from cheeks of a pig. 2. a love affair.

Michael5000 said...

@Chance: THAT's what I'm talkin' about!

Michael5000 said...

@Chance: THAT's what I'm talkin' about!

Anonymous said...

The film that spawned a thousand Harlequin romance covers...