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With his death, they mark the “last day of the director’s cinema”

You must have watched many of his films and then been left with the nagging feeling of loneliness and hopelessness. He was a master at conveying loneliness as presence. He was one of the greatest masters of psychologism in cinema. And even though he’s been gone for five years, his films remain to remind us of what to watch out for in our modern world.

September 29 this year marked the 110th anniversary of the birth of the Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni. He was born on this date in 1912.



Michelangelo Antonioni / Photo: Getty Images

Antonioni is one of the most awarded directors in world cinema: Golden Leopard in 1957 for “The Scream”, Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960 for “The Adventure”, David di Donatello for Best Director in 1961 for “Night” in 1976 as well; The Special Prize at Cannes in 1962 for The Eclipse, the Golden Lion in 1964 for The Red Desert, and another Golden Lion in 1983; Oscar in 1967 for Photo Enlargement, Thistle Award for Best Non-American Film in 1976 for A Reporter, European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993, second Oscar – Honorable Mention of the film academy of the USA in 1995 and many others. etc.



Filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni and his wife/collaborator Enrica Fico Antonioni attend the AMPAS Honoring Michelangelo Antonioni screening of ‘The Passenger’ at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on September 15, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California / Photo: Getty Images

He comes from Ferrara, a town with a rich history and architecture in northeastern Italy. You will be surprised that he graduated in business and economics and worked in a bank for a while. This person, completely alien to the material temptations of life, had the opportunity to comfortably develop in this direction, but chooses another field.



1966: Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni at a photography agency in Fleet Street, London / Photo: Getty Images

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An economist with a degree, Antonioni started out as a film critic for a small newspaper. A 27-year-old moves to Rome as the secretary of a film magazine with an editor… Benito Mussolini’s son.

In 1942, he began work on the script for a film by the father of neorealism, Roberto Rossellini, “The Pilot Returns”.



Last tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni in the Sala della Protomoteca City Hall on August 1, 2007 in Rome / Photo: Getty Images

In the next few years, Antonioni, in his own words, “wasted his time” with short shorts and continued to write screenplays.

His first feature film was “Chronicle of a Love”, filmed in 1950. The film is good, but not so successful as to make him a celebrity. He will have to work on it for another ten years, when his film “The Adventure” appears on the screen. In this film, for the first time, we see the real Antonioni – the man who can best tell how alienation happens – the worst “adventure” in the life of modern man.

In this film, moods and feelings are literally palpable, difficult even to describe in words. The film dissects man’s emotional mutilation like a scalpel.


The unique performance of the actress Monica Vitti made a huge contribution to the success of “The Adventure”. This film made her an international star. He and Antonioni made three more successful films together: “The Night” (1961), “The Eclipse” (1962) and “The Red Desert” (1964).



Actress Monica Vitti and director Michelangelo Antonioni attend the Venice International Film Festival, September 1962 / Photo: Getty Images

Antonioni knows how to penetrate into the deepest corners of the human psyche. He himself is a complex character. As one of his biographers says, “it is never clear to him whether he is pleased or angry with himself for something.” It was probably during such a period that the director wished to leave his native Italy for a period of 15 years.

Until 1979, he worked in Great Britain and the United States.



1966: Michelangelo Antonioni examines negatives / Photo: Getty Images

In 1966, he filmed his masterpiece “Photo Enlargement” in Great Britain. Four years later, in America – “Zabrisky Point”. The last quoted was voiced by the group “Pink Floyd” and became an inspiring manifesto of anti-conformist youth movements in the world.


In 1974, another unforgettable masterpiece from the director’s filmography appeared – the film “Profession Reporter” with Jack Nicholson in the lead role. After this film, Antonioni took a break for five years.

In 1981, he shot the film “The Oberwald Mystery”, and the following year – “Identification of a Woman”.

This is his last film before the stroke in 1985. His health deteriorates and partially paralyzes his body. It also affects his speech. The director starts communicating with his team using a notepad. This is how he filmed his film “Beyond the Clouds”, in which at a later stage the producers invited his German colleague Wim Wenders to help Antonioni.



Filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni attends the AMPAS Honoring Michelangelo Antonioni and ‘The Passenger’ screening at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on September 15, 2005 in Beverly Hills, California / Photo: Getty Images

What is interesting about this film – it was created based on stories by Antonioni himself, and the film stars a whole constellation of world-famous actors: John Malkovich, Jeremy Irons, Fanny Ardan, Irene Jacob, Sophie Marceau, Jean Reno, Marcello Mastroianni, and others.

The visibly ill Antonioni was awarded an Oscar in 1996 for his overall contribution to cinematography.


His last film – “Eros” (2004) is a French-Italian co-production, on which two more directors – Steven Soderbergh and Wong Karvai collaborated with Antonioni.

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Michelangelo Antonioni died at the age of 94 on July 30, 2007, after leaving us a legacy of 18 masterpiece films. Ingmar Bergman also left the world on this day in Sweden. Two colossus of cinema flew from the earth to the afterlife on the same day. A significant and somewhat ironic coincidence. Why: Bergman was delighted with Antonioni’s film Zoom, but publicly described all his other films as “boring”.



Last tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni in the Sala della Protomoteca City Hall on August 1, 2007 in Rome / Photo: Getty Images

Probably the two are having a heated argument on this issue “beyond”. More interesting is how critics view the “coincidence” with the date of their death. They define it as “the end of the great era of directorial cinema”. Like the death of Shakespeare and Cervantes in 1616, which ended the Renaissance.



Last tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni in the Sala della Protomoteca City Hall on August 1, 2007 in Rome / Photo: Getty Images

Antonioni himself, like Bergman, considered his film “Photo Enlargement” to be his best film. The script of the film is based on a story by Julio Cortázar – “Leagues of the Devil”. According to critics, the film has nothing to do with its literary basis, but Antonioni manages to extract the depth of its messages in a completely different, his own way.



1966: Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni visits a photography agency in Fleet Street, London / Photo: Getty Images

The original title of the film is actually “Blow up” – something difficult to translate because it has a much wider range than its literal use for a photographic flash. It is perceived in context as different things – blast, shot, orgasm, outburst. We understand what Antonioni meant at the end of the film. In the final, a ball emits the pulse of a human heart. The pulse of a man standing in front of some mystery – the mystery of the divine universe.


As is known, the American Academy awards Antonioni for overall contribution to cinema, but the truth is that Hollywood remains cold to the director’s work. They don’t understand his stories there, in which “there are no finished stories”. The lack of a literal story is a problem for Hollywood, or rather an incomprehensible task for the viewer, according to Hollywood ideas. Of course, “that’s Hollywood’s problem,” joked one critic.



Last tribute to Michelangelo Antonioni in the Sala della Protomoteca City Hall on August 1, 2007 in Rome / Photo: Getty Images

Antonioni is a shining example of a man devoted to cinema. Left paralyzed and almost mute, he took pictures almost to the end of his days. And if the director’s cinema went with him, at least he bequeathed to the next generations of directors wonderful examples of how to make “deep cinema”.

And for us, the viewers, he has left us the opportunity to search again and again for a deeper meaning in solitude, to discover in it the strong presence of the Spirit.

Emmy MARIANSKA

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