Antonioni. Antonioni has three films in the top 100, five films essentially in the top 250 (#253 with Blow Up). His films demonstrate a rigid formal structure (both within each film and as a collective oeuvre) and jaw-dropping photographic beauty. During this streak from 1960-1966— L’Avventura to Blow-Up, he made five 5 in 7 years that are either masterpieces or right on the fringe. It’s there with Fellini, Godard, and Truffaut during that stretch and out of those 4 auteurs (2 Italian, 2 French) it’s Antonioni who has the best film outside of the very late 1950s and 1960s (The Passenger in 1975). I consider myself a student of Andrew Sarris so this, on L’Avventura, says a great deal (much of it for all of Antonioni’s work) “every shot is the result of calculation of the highest order.”
Best film: Red Desert. Antonioni’s first color film and his best film overall. Antonioni- like Fellini, Kurosawa, Ozu and the other early masters who started in b/w uses color like a weapon- expressive– he actually painted part of the landscape here (red of course), goes for very bold primary, a blue shack, yellow smoke from the factory. Antonioni literally painted the pipes at the factory. When we aren’t hit with the rich primary colors we’re swimming in rustic industrial gray color palette and fog—a vendor on the street is selling something and Antonioni paints every item gray. I adore the shallow focus opening and credits—industrial landscapes with that experimental score- it sets up the entire film so well formally and visually. Antonioni’s sense of mise-en-scene and frame design has rarely been matched in cinema history—and how that and the architecture influence his characters is pure genius. It’s harming Vitti in this film. Seems just that every frame be a distressing picturesque masterstroke. End on the factory pouring smoke with the industrial experimental score- perfection.
total archiveable films: 12
top 100 films: 3 (Red Desert, L’Avventura, The Passenger)
top 500 films: 6 (Red Desert, L’Avventura, The Passenger, L’Eclisse, Blow-Up, La Notte)
top 100 films of the decade: 8 (Red Desert, L’Avventura, L’Eclisse, Blow-Up, The Passenger, La Notte, Zabriskie Point, Identification of a Woman)
most overrated: There’s nothing too drastic— TSPDT has Blow-Up as #99 and as Antonioni’s #2—I think the box office popularity ( I think the chic setting of swinging London, a fashion photographer, and the rock section were a big part of that hitting home with audiences) and impact (essentially remade by De Palma and Francis Ford Coppola). I have it at #253 all-time and as Antonioni’s 5th best film. It’s just not nearly as loaded with impressive photographic moments as L’Eclisse or Red Desert. However, every once and awhile we get the flourishes like when Hemmings drives through an entire street painted red. Antonioni also spray paints the he spray painted the grass green… effing love it. The film’s invention is brilliant– an optical illusion, is it a vase or two faces… art vs. realism. Then of course the long shot in the sea of green and he disappears… fabulous.
most underrated : I hate to do it because I already went on about it above but there’s no other choice but Red Desert. The TSPDT consensus has it as #316 all-time and #6 for Antonioni. I’m at #40 overall and #1 for Antonioni. Zabriskie Point was underrated for a long time but its found its way onto the TSPDT top 1000. The ending montage is superb along with some of the mise-en-scene imagery.
gem I want to spotlight: It’s tempting to go with Il Grido. It’s not quite as good but it’s Antonioni’s La Strada (almost as if it were told from Anthony Quinn’s POV) and that would make a fascinating study– but I have to go with L’Eclisse for the formal construction. The film is exceptional in it’s entirely, a masterpiece, but the finale with the rain barrel is a formal wonder-stroke and a brazen- and avant-garde decision—instead of seeing the Vitti and Delon end up together, breaking up, or (more to Antonioni) ambiguously still there, he simply leaves them entirely– and watches the empty events of the street corner where they first met (including the rain barrel, the eclipse). The film has an odd sci-fi structure in the town- like a skyscraper and water tower combined- Ozu’s A Hen in the Wind– such an underrated work. Architecture as character and mise-en-scen. Delon is barely in the first 50 mins- again typical of Antonioni. There are constantly lines between Delon and Vitti- the telephone pole (amazing shot)- a great shot of them separated by a column at the stock exchange might be the best in this film which could be a series of still-frame art photographs. Again, the architecture or rain barrel montage at the very end—it’s a ghost town, horror film score—gets very avant-garde and metaphorical, empty street corner and building under construction and eclipse—alienation and decay, rubble.
stylistic innovations/traits: Antonioni, first and foremost, is a master of shot composition. He’s obsessed with not just the foreground the background in the frame and using architecture as a character. He’s as concerned with the body language of his actors and the way people are facing each other as what they say. His films are paced, bleak and detached. His narratives are wandering and open ended. His camera movement (both tracking and his wonderful use of panning) mirrors his ambiguous and seemingly unmotivated characters. All of his films can be seen as meditations on alienation. Antonioni is what you think of when you think of foreign art house cinema. His films are again, slower (people who hate foreign art house cinema would use other words). It can be viewed (not by me) as pretentious, self-serious, or very “art for the sake of art” but his 6 films that are in the top 5 of their respective year are all consistent and visually striking. Alienation amidst gorgeous and vast landscapes and architecture- opaque, lyrical and ambiguous. Minor characters becoming major and vice versa is an Antonioni trademark (this starts really before he and Hitchcock drop (or kill off) their stars in their dueling 1960’s films)- Antonioni was doing this in the 50’s. Delon is barely in the first 50 minutes of L’Eclisse, of course we have the disappearance in L’Avventura, Maria Schneider first speaks 63 minutes into The Passenger. Vitto shows up far into La Notte (and she takes over- hypnotic). The characteristic Antonioni image is of two characters in the same frame not looking at each other. The factory from Red Desert, or the basin/valley in Zabriskie Point– architecture as character- the island in L’Avventura, the party in La Notte. Antonioni shoots two people, dressed immaculately in the same frame together in such a beautiful way- it’s not easy. He’s not known for the tracking shot like some other auteurs but the perplexing seven minute tracking shot through the bars at the end of The Passenger is the greatest single shot in Antonioni’s career (even if he did the best work of his career on the whole in the 60’s), and among the greatest single shots in cinema history. Nicholson said Antonioni regarded actors as moving space and nothing more. Architecture as character- for example in The Passenger we havethe Gaudi building—gorgeous statues used to frame actors—Plaza de La Iglesia – it’s a bit like the opposite of Welles’ The Trial, Red Desert or the Moreau sequences in La Notte with modern architecture destroying characters or closing in on them— this is open—lost in it.
- Red Desert
- The Passenger
- La Notte
- Il Grido
- Zabriskie Point
- The Lady Without Camelias
- Identification of a Woman
By year and grades
|1950- Story of a Love Affair||R|
|1953- The Lady Without Camelias||HR|
|1955- Le Amiche||R/HR|
|1957- Il Grido||HR|
|1961- La Notte||MS/MP|
|1964- Red Desert||MP|
|1970- Zabriskie Point||HR|
|1975- The Passenger||MP|
|1982- Identification of a Woman||R/HR|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
For you, what are the most overrated films of all time? And the most underestimated?
@Lucas Henriques– so for every director page (I did 250) and every year (I’ve done like 100) i have an overrated and underrated category. It tough to pick just one. I hesitate to say it because I’ve only seen it once- but I really struggled with Jeanne Dielman and it is #84 on the TSPDT list of all-time. I didn’t think much of it. I hope I’m wrong and plan to rewatch it. I have Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Love at #33 and it barely makes the consensus top 1000. And Imamura’s The Pornographers is in my top 100 and isn’t in the TSPDT top 2000.
i love those classic grany shots from color films of the 70s and 60s and even 80s. are there any good modern films or directors that use that grainy quality in their image.
The Andersons (Wes and PT) each seemed to attempt to capture some of that tactile image quality in Moonrise Kingdom and Inherent Vice respectively.
@m– not sure if this is what you’re looking for but some more modern uses of 16mm (certainly grainy) here https://www.indiewire.com/gallery/movies-shot-on-16mm-moonrise-kingdom-carol/
@Drake thank you for this. Thats helpful
You forgot The Passenger in his top 100 films of the decade.
@Zane- yes I did- thank you for the cleanup help here
Recent rewatches of La Notte and L’Eclisse have turned me around on them (previously I disliked them somewhat, because on my first viewing I felt La Notte took a nosedive stylistically after the brilliant first 48 minutes – which were so stunningly incredible that I thought the film would be even better than L’Avventura – though it recovered some of its brilliance eventually and I ranked it as a MS/MP, and L’Eclisse which I did think was a MP but I just disliked elements of it like Delon’s character – keep in mind I was watching this the day after Purple Noon and his performance in L’Eclisse pales in comparison – and I was beginning to lose some faith in Antonioni after being blown away by L’Avventura; of course, then I watched Red Desert, Blow-Up and The Passenger which completed eliminated any doubt of his ability) and I’ve made my Antonioni top 6 here:
1. Red Desert – MP
2. The Passenger – MP
3. L’Avventura – MP
4. L’Eclisse – MP
5. La Notte – MP
6. Blow-Up – MP/MS
I think La Notte is a lot closer behind the top 4 than you think it is Drake. I thought the film suffered for the last hour at the party on my first watch but I was definitely proven wrong on my latest viewing yesterday. I think it’s top 150 material. Additionally, even though I have The Passenger as my #2 Antonioni, I actually disagree with your statement that Antonioni has the best film of himself, Fellini, Truffaut and Godard outside of the 60s, which for me is Amarcord which I think is Fellini’s #3. That being said, The Passenger – and L’Avventura for that matter – are barely behind it as of writing this and I could easily change my mind in the future. It’s also worth noting that TSPDT has Amarcord at #70 all-time, and whenever I see ratings like this I sometimes think I’m starting to understand the consensus more, and they also agree with me on ratings like Le Samourai at #202 all-time for example; nonetheless I then think of ratings like Naked Lunch at #2456, Juliet of the Spirits at #959 or Red Desert at #307 and realize how often the consensus is wrong. I also think noting that for me, Fellini’s #3 being better (even if marginally) than Antonioni’s #2 is significant.
Excuse me, but at the beginning you say of Fellini, Antonioni, Truffaut, and Godard, that Antonioni has the best film outside of the 1960s decade, when Truffaut directed The 400 Blows in 1959???
I’m joking honestly but still it is kinda true.
@Zane- You’re absolutely right. Thanks.
I’m 100% with @Zane about considering Blow up and La notte as MP. And I think his 15 years stretch with 5 MP’s and 1 HR ( Zabriskie point) it’s really impressive. I always struggle when I think who is really the best italian director ever. Fellini has the two biggest movies but Antonioni had an incredible peak for 15 years.. There is a better 15 years stretch than this??
@benedetto – Do you mean 15 year stretches amongst Italian directors or any? If it’s any director than Kurosawa’s run from 1950 to 1965 includes:
Seven Samurai (1954)
Throne of Blood (1957)
The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
High and Low (1963)
Red Beard (1965)
That’s tough to beat
@Benedetto Fellini’s run from 1953 to 1976 is superior to Antonioni’s over the same time period. 5 probable top 100 films (3 for certain) if you go from 1960 to 1974 only broken by Fellini’s Roma which I have yet to see. I also don’t think Blowup is a full MP so I’m not sure why you mentioned that, though I’m open to changing that in the future. Bergman had a great 20 or so years from Sawdust and Tinsel (shockingly underrated film) to Scenes from a Marriage in 1953-1973 as well, and Tarkovsky from 1966 to 1986… yeah.
@benedetto – If we’re talking about Italian directors, Visconti had a great 20 year stretch from 1943 to 1963 (Ossessione, La Terra Trema, Bellissima, Senso, Le Notti Bianche, Rocco and His Brothers and The Leopard), and even though he’s not in Fellini’s and Antonioni’s levels (if we’re comparing 20 year stretches) I think that’s still pretty phenomenal and deserves a mention on this discussion.
@benedetto- great work here. It is brilliant stretch for Antonioni. @James Trapp mentions Kurosawa from 1950-1965. Godard and Truffaut during their peak runs. I thought of Ozu as well from 1948 till the end of his career in 1962
1948- A Hen in the Wind MS/MP
1949- Late Spring MP
1951- Early Summer MP
1952- The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice HR
1953- Tokyo Story MP
1956- Early Spring HR
1957- Tokyo Twilight R/HR
1958- Equinox Flower HR
1959- Floating Weeds MS/MP
1959- Good Morning R/HR
1960- Late Autumn HR
1961- The End of Summer MP
1962- An Autumn Afternoon MS
Yeah I mean, Godard in those 7 years has some movies like ” les carabiniers” and ” le petit soldat” that are not so great…
Truffaut I guess had his peak from 1959 to 1962.. even if I love every movie that he made I think except for the first three movies he never had a peak.. he is incredible because he has an incredible filmography through 23 movies.
Anyway I still have to watch any Kurosawa or Ozu’s so I can’t say anything.
Those 7 years from Coppola belongs to the top of the tier I guess
And Tarkovskij’s filmography too maybe
@benedetto – “Anyway I still have to watch any Kurosawa or Ozu’s so I can’t say anything”
I envy you ha. Seriously Kurosawa is a legit GOAT candidate and Ozu may be as well although I have not seen all of his work but I have seen most of his best films.
@ james Trapp- Yeah Ozu and Kurosawa are ( with Dreyer and Murnau) are the first directors that I have to check out. When i fell in love with french cinema I kind of stopped to discover new directors.
sorry @zane and @rk I missed your comments. I wasn’t talking about only italian directors. But anyway Zane, I think that in that stretch Fellini has the best two movies, but Antonioni Blow up, the pasenger ant la notte I think are better than all the other Fellini’s so I don’t really know. IMO blow up is a MP anyway. @rk I’m not a big admirer Visconti’s admirer I have to say. I find his movies a bit emotionless. I know It’s my fault and I know that he is a master but It’s not my cup of tea. I know you would say that Antonioni’s movies are emotionless too, but I guess that is the point with Antonioni, it’s part of his author touch.
@Benedetto – Here’s my Fellini and Antonioni rankings during the stretch of 1960-1976 (I would go back to the early 50s, which should actually give Fellini an even greater lead, but I haven’t seen Antonioni’s 50s work just yet)
1960: La Dolce Vita – MP (#15)
1963: 8 1/2 – MP (#13)
1965: Juliet of the Spirits – MP (#39)
1969: Satyricon – MP (#80)
1972: Roma – R/HR (leaning HR)
1973: Amarcord – MP (#74)
1976: Casanova – MS
1960: L’Avventura – MP (#79)
1961: La Notte – MP
1962: L’Eclisse – MP
1964: Red Desert – MP (#40)
1966: Blowup – MS/MP
1970: Zabriskie Point – Not Yet Seen
1975 – The Passenger – MP (#84)
When Fellini’s 3rd best film is superior, if barely, to Antonioni’s best, and his 5th best film is just one spot short of beating Antonioni’s 2nd best, that kind of lead is pretty insurmountable. Of course, this is all just my ranking here.
@Graham- really appreciate your help here- thank you
Story of a Love Affair R
The Lady Without Camelias R
Le Amiche R
Il Grido MS
La Notte MP
Red Desert MP
Zabriskie Point HR
The Passenger MS
Identification of a Woman R
Has anyone seen Eros? It’s an anthology film consisting of 3 parts directed by Antonioni, War-Kai, and Soderbergh.
It seems like such a dope concept. 3 great auteurs with completely different styles supposedly making what’s essentially a spiritually connected trilogy. I couldn’t find it in the archives. I’m hoping that’s because Drake hasn’t seen it and not because it’s not good enough to be archived haha.
I have not seen but it has very mixed reviews, WKW part is highly praised while Antonioni’s part is considered the weakest segment of the anthology.
Have seen it? What will be your rating.
@Matthew- I have actually not seen many of these (including Eros) sort of cinema’s version of rock supergroups– the multiple-director anthology films. I should see them- look at all the talent involved- but I’ve also never had, in all my years, someone pull me aside and say “you have to see this!!” and Alt Mash is spot on about the mixed reviews.
“many of these”- mind sharing the other ones not named Eros? I wasn’t aware there were even more of these multi-director anthology films.
@Matthew- Here’s a list of some http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2015/15-great-multi-directed-anthology-movies-that-are-worth-your-time/
Hell yea. Thanks
Nah I haven’t seen it. Was gonna see if it was worth watching based on what others thought of it
Even though Antonioni is not known to be an actor friendly director the 3 films I watched from him had really good acting. Red Desert, Blow-Up and The Passenger. Out of the 6 main actors in these 3 films I thought;
1)Vitti in Red Desert was the best
2)Probably David Hemmings in Blow-Up
3)Then Jack in The Passenger
4)Probably V.Redgrave in Blow-Up
5)M.Schneider in the Passenger
6)Lastly Richard Harris in Red Desert(I liked seeing him in the film. He was a bit otherworldly and maybe the performance would have been better if he actually spoke Italian)
Also curious why you don’t refer to Red Desert as Il Deserto Rosso like you have done with L’Eclisse or L’Avventura. It is the real and original name of the film which also appears in the opening credits.
I haven’t watched Antonioni’s black and white films. Not really a fan of black and white films tbh. Maybe I should. As for his other colour films like Zabriskie Point and Identification of a Woman It’s hard for me to get through a film without a good actor/actress carrying the film. I wish Antonioni made more colour films after Blow-Up with known actors before his stroke happened.
I thought all 3 movies were superb. And would probably rank them
I like how he strands his actors in vast and desolate landscapes. Great photography and some intentional and stunning use of colour. The ending of Red Desert was a particular highlight with yellow smoke coming out in the background behind Vitti. Characters mysteriously disappearing and reappearing is also prevalent in both Blow-Up and The Passenger with V.Redgrave and M.Schneider respectively.
@Malith – I love Antonioni just watched Red Desert 2 days ago myself for at least my 3rd viewing possibly 4th.
“I haven’t watched Antonioni’s black and white films. Not really a fan of black and white films tbh. Maybe I should”
Just wondering why? I’m not here to bash you for it as I can’t stand obnoxious film snobs. Just curious really since it limits so many of the all time greats.
I watched Citizen Kane, A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront and didn’t particularly like either of them. They were all decent enough but not among my favourites. So I more or less prioritize great colour films over the black and white ones. The only black and white film I really liked was Raging Bull. Others are I don’t know was too stage bound for me mainly. I should give them another shot for sure.
@Malith – I flew through this exercise but I think 44/100 of the best films of all-time are black and white.
@Drake-Yeah. For me it was just a matter of losing focus with these old black and white films which have limited locations. I really like vast landscape photography and these were lacking in some of the black and white films I watched especially the very old ones.
@Malith- Got it. Sounds like two things going on – the black and white barrier- and the one- setting barrier. Kurosawa’s High and Low (at least eventually) would be a fun one to catch. It is in black and white- and the first 56 minutes are shot essentially in one room and the film is one of the most cinematic and beautiful of all-time.
@Malith – some black and white films with nice landscape photography you might enjoy are Stagecoach and Fort Apache from Ford, Gunga Din and Lost Horizon.
Assuming you haven’t seen them yet, some of Kurosawa’s like Seven Samurai, Rashomon and Throne of Blood/Spiderweb Castle have plenty of grand exterior moments.
“I watched Citizen Kane, A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront and didn’t particularly like either of them.”
Seems like way too small of a sample size. Perhaps you just didn’t like the films overall… as opposed to it being something you would have otherwise liked if if wasn’t in black and white. Feels like way too big of a leap to assume you just can’t get into b&w photographed films because you didn’t like those 3 of B&W films. Just my 2 cents, but I would keep trying
@Malith- Good question on the name Red Desert vs. Il Deserto Rosso. It just depends- some of these films I’ve just always known them a certain way (Breathless is Breathless- and Pierrot le Fou is Pierrot le Fou)- Some I’ve been trying to correct over the years but it isn’t something I lose sleep over.
I am also surprised about the black and white comment. I mean this as a compliment – not an insult- but I would have guessed you would have been beyond as a cinephile.
@Drake-I was more or less prioritizing on watching some great colour films before watching some black and white ones. Raging Bull is the only one I liked out of the black and white films I watched. Some old black and white films were kinda stage bound and was hard for me to focus on watching the same locations over and over without any colour.
@Malith – just curious what are some of favorite films?
@James Trapp-Hmm. I would go with
2)The Godfather Part 2
7)There Will be Blood
8)One flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
9)The Age of Innocence
10)Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood
11)Dog Day Afternoon
12)The Last of the Mohicans(1992)
15)The Last Tango in Paris(mainly Brando’s performance which is the best ever for me)
Whoops. I would put The Ghost Writer at 15 and Last Tango at 16(there are too many flaws in this one)
My ranking of Antonioni`s films that I`ve seen:
1. Red Desert MP
2. L`Avventura MP
3. The Passenger MP (2. and 3. are basically tied)
4. L`Eclisse MP
5. Blow-Up MP
6. La Notte MS/MP (very close to MP)
7. Zabriskie Point HR
10 Best Performances
1. Vitti- Red Desert
2. Vitti- L`Avventura
3. Vitti- L`Eclisse
4. Moreau- La Notte
5. Mastroianni- La Notte
6. Nicholson- The Passenger
7. Hemmings- Blow-Up
8. Vitti- La Notte
9. Delon- L`Eclisse
10. Redgrave- Blow-Up
@RujK-I would rate Hemmings in Blow-Up above Jack in The Passenger. Both are very good. But I thought Hemmings’ character had these little ticks and traits which made him more memorable for me. Jack is very compelling and didn’t do anything wrong but his character didn’t have these memorable and unique traits
@Malith- I actually don`t have any problem with any of those two performances and believe they are mostly on the same level- I put Nicholson higher mostly because I believe that effective underplaying is one of the most difficult things an actor has to do, and to see the king of over-the-top acting being so subtle really blew me away.
Antonioni is one of my favorite directors. Here is a ranking of his films I have seen.
4.Identification of a Woman(1982)-HR
The last two are flawed. But contains some of Antonioni’s best sequences he produced. The lengthy fog scene in Identification of a Woman and both the orgy scene and final explosion in Zabriskie Point. I have some mixed feelings about some of the content of the orgy and a silly double take(zooming in) but still overall it works.
6)Silverio-Identification of a Woman
8)T.Milian-Identification of a Woman
As for other performances the two leads drag the film down in Zabriskie Point. Rod Taylor is good in his scenes but doesn’t have much to do other than being a corporate figure and a caring boss. Even though she is highlighted in Blow-Up not sure what the purpose of the Sarah Miles character is in the film. She is neither attractive or any of her scenes particularly memorable. Christine Boisson for Identification of a Woman was probably the closest to joining the above list. And she is fine. But for me this is a better film if Antonioni removed this character altogether and focused more on the two leads. Plus the strong and consistent visual light blue color scheme mostly disappears in the last third of the movie Boisson is mainly part of.