Michael Blowhard’s tribute to Antonioni’s The Passenger is interesting both because of his perceptions and the era he (and it) brings back. The first films we ordered from Netflix were Antonioni’s–I’d remembered loving them much as I loved the spaces in Pinter. We see them with a sort of ache: the music draws us in as does the minimalist plot through pauses. Little action, much space, much time – the very slowness mesmerizes. The world we enter through his eyes seems severed from the realistic, the humanist, the live. And so, across the screen, a heroine seldom strides but always seems to wander, moving around rather than toward. The hero ends up, somehow, in bed without pursuing. These solipsistic lives are punctuated by intense but, well, uncommunicative sex which only accentuates isolation. No wonder we so often felt, well, alienated. Watching them again this summer, we found they still embodied a remarkable aesthetic, a coherence I hadn’t recognized all those years ago.
He reminds us
Right from the outset, his [Antonioini’s] films were enigmatic, high-art mood pieces. The subject Antonioni focused on was the alienation — “ennui” and “anomie” were words much in use in those days — some people were feeling in the post-war world. What this generally translated to onscreen was unhappy marriages; failures of communication; mysteries that were never solved; and spiritually void people moving through concrete and industrial wastelands, or through landscapes that mirrored their confusion and barrenness. And, often, a sense of romantic/erotic yearning.
Blowhard argues The Passenger has stood up. This summer, I’d felt at once drawn in and repelled by the three that made his reputation in the 60’s – L’Avventura, L’Eclisse, and La Notte. They, too, retain a beauty & coherence that is remarkable – if, well, enervated. I appreciate Michael Blowhard putting it into words, helping me understand what we felt. But, frankly, I’m also kind of glad my daughters were bored.