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Modernist Master: Michelangelo Antonioni

March 2, 2007 - April 22, 2007

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Red Desert, March 2

"A must-see retrospective [of] not just a great movie director but . . . a major European artist—one of the very few filmmakers ever recognized as such."—J. Hoberman, Village Voice

A retrospective of the films of the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni is always timely—as our world changes, so, it seems, do his films. This may be a characteristic of modernism in general, a movement of which Antonioni (b. 1912) was cinema's most elegant proponent. Despite having apprenticed to Roberto Rossellini, Antonioni skirted neorealism for a cinema of interiority expressed through what author Seymour Chatman called "the surface of the world." His main contribution is said to be the characterization of a void in the lives of the middle class; even more than Bergman, Antonioni made absence a presence on the screen. But what was considered fashionable angst in the 1960s today plays with astounding emotional currency. Is this because Antonioni was prescient, or because of what his films, spanning five decades, have taught us about looking at the world?

The strikingly delicate performances Antonioni elicits from his lead actors—not only Monica Vitti, muse of his defining trilogy L'avventura, L'eclisse, and the mid-career masterpiece Red Desert; but Jeanne Moreau in La notte, Jack Nicholson in The Passenger—offer their own intellectual challenges. Since Antonioni's typical male is a wanderer, at home nowhere and thus everywhere, and since what Antonioni deals with is alienation and its spaces, it is not always recognized that he is a consummate director of women's emotions—a proto-feminist, distilling psychology into a protracted reaction shot. Today we see that Antonioni painted his pain in facing the modern condition as few directors have, and that this has made his films eminently human.


Judy Bloch
Publications Director

Friday, March 2, 2007
8:45 p.m. Red Desert
Antonioni’s first color film draws images of alarming beauty from environmental apocalypse as an industrialist’s wife (Monica Vitti) suffers a nervous breakdown. “Never has so bleak a vision of contemporary life been projected with more intensity.”—Time

Sunday, March 4, 2007
4:30 p.m. La notte
Novelist Marcello Mastroianni and his wife Jeanne Moreau play out a drama of marital disillusionment against Antonioni’s rigorous sense of place and architecture.

Friday, March 9, 2007
7:00 p.m. L’eclisse
"Antonioni's 1962 masterpiece showcases Monica Vitti as his moodiest, most evasive heroine, drifting out of one affair and into another with Alain Delon's mercurial stockbroker."—Village Voice. "Perhaps the director's most savage blast of gorgeous B&W ennui."—Time Out

Saturday, March 10, 2007
5:30 p.m. Il grido
“A stripped-down existential drama . . . an angry working man wanders impulsively through a world that has no place for him. Pervasive mist, fluid compositions, and melancholy piano add to the disorientation.”—Village Voice

Sunday, March 11, 2007
4:30 p.m. Story of a Love Affair
Antonioni's first feature is loosely based on The Postman Always Rings Twice, but turns a torrid love story into a tale of corruption and betrayal in postwar industrial society.

Thursday, March 15, 2007
7:30 p.m. L’avventura
Monica Vitti on a desert island in "a mystery that casually abandons its ostensible premise midway through. . . . Cinema as temporal sculpture, L'Avventura [was] among the most influential of '60s movies."—Village Voice. "The first (and the definitive) film about the diminishing attention span of a modern world."—N.Y. Times

Sunday, March 25, 2007
4:00 p.m. The Lady Without Camellias
A Milanese shopgirl becomes a movie actress, but not a great one, in this expressive early melodrama. "Antonioni transcends the traditional hypocrisies of the soap-opera genre, [yet] never loses touch with the throbbing feelings of his characters."—Village Voice

Thursday, March 29, 2007
7:30 p.m. The Mystery of Oberwald
Adapted from a drama by Cocteau, the story of a queen (Monica Vitti), her king, a poet, and treachery and murder in an unidentified kingdom. “A work of dazzling ambition and achievement.”—Time. With short Antonioni visto da Antonioni.

Thursday, March 29, 2007
7:30 p.m. The Mystery of Oberwald


Friday, March 30, 2007
7:00 p.m. Blow-Up
“Simply put, the key movie of the 1960s. Set in a vividly mod Swinging London, Antonioni’s first English-language film (is) a cryptic murder mystery . . . a landmark of the decade’s observational outrage and Pop disposability.”—Time Out

Saturday, March 31, 2007
6:30 p.m. Le amiche
“This strong early feature . . . focuses on a woman who returns to her native city of Turin to open a fashion salon, and on the troubled wealthy young men and women she gets to know. Masterfully directed in Antonioni's choreographic manner, with strong melancholic undertones.”—Chicago Reader

Sunday, April 1, 2007
2:00 p.m. Short Films by Antonioni, Program 1
Rare, early shorts made between 1943 and 1965 document the lives of villagers and street cleaners, models and lovers.

Sunday, April 1, 2007
3:45 p.m. I vinti
Three moral tales observe the dehumanized behavior of postwar youth; aimlessness is reflected in the landscape as much as in the action.

Thursday, April 5, 2007
5:30 p.m. Antonioni: The Vision That Changed the Cinema (Free Screening!)
An illuminating collection of clips and interviews. With short The Last Sequence of The Passenger.

Thursday, April 5, 2007
5:30 p.m. Antonioni: The Vision That Changed the Cinema (Free Screening!)


Saturday, April 7, 2007
8:30 p.m. Zabriskie Point
Antonioni filmed the ’60s war between radical and straight cultures in L.A. and Death Valley. “A sorrowing, stranger's-eye view of modern America.”—Time Out

Friday, April 13, 2007
8:50 p.m. The Passenger
Over 30 years later, Antonioni’s 1975 film “still packs a wallop. . . . This moody Jack Nicholson political thriller remains a great, bizarre film, full of beauty, mystery, and riddles with no answers.”—Chicago Tribune

Saturday, April 14, 2007
8:30 p.m. Identification of a Woman
In 1982, Antonioni returned to the themes of his great ‘60s films—alienation and ennui among the well-to-do—for this enigmatic, erotic work. “A brilliant, glittering piece of filmmaking . . . stunningly beautiful.”—Sight & Sound

Sunday, April 15, 2007
2:00 p.m. Chung Kuo China
A meditation on China in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. “The rarest of rare, this epic documentary is as legendary as it is unseen.”—Cinematheque Ontario

Saturday, April 21, 2007
8:50 p.m. Beyond the Clouds
Completed with help from Wim Wenders after Antonioni suffered a stroke, with John Malkovich playing the director's alter ego, this series of vignettes offers "moments of such astounding visual power . . . that you are all but transported through the screen to a place where the physical and emotional weather fuse into a palpable sadness."—N.Y. Times

Sunday, April 22, 2007
2:00 p.m. Short Films by Antonioni, Program 2
Shorts made between 1997 and 2004 range from a return to the island of L'avventura to a moving self-portrait. With Making a Film for Me Is Life, a documentary shot during the making of Beyond the Clouds.

Sunday, April 22, 2007
2:00 p.m. Short Films by Antonioni, Program 2


Curated at PFA by Susan Oxtoby.

PFA wishes to thank Camilla Cormanni and Rossella Rinaldi, Cinecittà Holding Film Archive, Rome; Onofrio Speciale and Valeria Rumori, Istituto Italiano di Cultura; and George Kaltsounakis, Cinematheque Ontario, for their generous assistance with this retrospective.