Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo Antonioni is an Italian director who “redefined the concept of narrative cinema” and challenged traditional approaches to storytelling, realism, drama, and the world at large. He produced “enigmatic and intricate mood pieces” and rejected action in favor of contemplation, focusing on image and design over character and story. In 1942, Antonioni co-wrote a movie script with Roberto Rossellini and made a series of shorts which were more neorealist in style, studying the lives of ordinary people. When Antonioni began making L’ Avventura in 1960, he began to experiment with a radical new style: instead of a conventional narrative, he presented a series of apparently disconnected events, and he used long takes as part of his film making style. L’ Avventura starred Antonioni’s favorite leading lady Monica Vitti and became his very first international success. Even though film received a mixture of boos and cheers at the Cannes Film Festival, it was hugely popular in art house cinemas around the world. L’ Avventura was the first of a trilogy, followed next by La Notte in 1961 and L’Eclisse in 1962. All three stories explored the emotional alienation between a man and a woman within the contemporary world of modernization. One of the recurring themes in Antonioni’s films are its detached characters whose lives are soulless, empty and meaningless, aside from the gratification of pleasure or the pursuit of material wealth. “Too shallow to be truly lonely,” critic Pauline Kael wrote, “they are people trying to escape their boredom by reaching out to one another and finding only boredom once again. The characters are active only in trying to discharge their anxiety. Sex is their sole means of contact.” Antonioni’s films tend to have spare plots and dialogue, and much of the screen time is spent lingering on certain settings, such as the continuous seven minute take at the end of The Passenger (1975), or the ambiguous conclusion of L’ Eclisse in which the camera shoots half constructed architectural buildings, empty streets and the geometric lines on crosswalks. In his thriller Blow-up (1966) Antonioni gives us a philosophical conclusion involving a group of pantomiming mimes that play an invisible game of tennis with an imaginary ball. Antonioni is also noted for exploiting color as a significant expressive element of his cinematic style, especially in his first color film Red Desert (1964), which many consider to be a fourth link in the trilogy. Antonioni’s films defined a “cinema of possibilities” while film historian Virginia Wright Wexman describes Antonioni’s perspective on the world as that of a “post-religious Marxist and existentialist intellectual.” Antonioni received numerous awards and nominations throughout his career while Bordwell explains that Antonioni’s films were extremely influential on subsequent art films stating: “More than any other director, he encouraged filmmakers to explore elliptical and open-ended narrative”.

Michelangelo Antonioni
Michelangelo Antonioni Featured Films
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Articles and Essays on Michelangelo Antonioni

Blow-up (1966)

With Blow-up, Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni created one of the most fascinating and psychedelic art films, which tells the story of a desensitized and nihilistic London photographer who may have or not have witnessed a murder. Antonioni uses the formulaic materials for a traditional suspense thriller, without the climatic payoff. When Blow-up was released in 1966 […]


Red Desert (1964)

Red Desert came out in the year 1964, which was almost twenty years since the end of the war, by which that time Italy had recovered from the devastation that was caused by that catastrophic event, and was on its way towards a modern prosperity; the years stretching from 1954 to 1964 were those of the […]


L’ Eclisse (1962)

At the time Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’ Eclisse was released, other filmmakers from all around the world were experimenting with the possibilities of film. At a time when other European filmmakers were taking cinematic chances, like Godard with Breathless, Luis Bunuel with Viridiana, Alain Resnais with Last Year in Marienbad and Ingmar Bergman with Persona, Antonioni’s film […]


L’ Avventura (1960)

Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece L’ Avventura became famous because it was said that nothing ever happened in the film. It was a search for a person that didn’t have a resolution and a love story that didn’t have a conclusion. L’ Avventura in English means ‘The Adventure,’ which is very ironic since little adventure really takes place. The premiere of L’Avventura, […]


The beautiful Monica Vitti