Saturday, November 29, 2008

L'ECLISSE (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1962, Italy) Vittoria is an empty and silent structure, an unfinished shelter that remains hidden beneath a shroud of flesh and temporary beauty, trapped at a dirty windswept street corner. Here at this spiritual nexus, her emotional lifeblood spills out onto the dark pavement as the shadows settle upon the oblique cityscape, her present tense eclipsed by this urban malady and her bitter unfocused apathy. Director Michelangelo Antonioni films in a starkly vivid black and white, breathing life into Vittoria’s colorless existence, though she putters about without direction, fractured and lost even to herself, like a cold kiss of glass, she strives to comes alive and seize the moment. The film begins with Vittoria breaking of an affair with a successful writer, seeking to define herself as an individual and not through her lover’s objectification. She reaches through a picture frame and rearranges a few mundane items on a table thus creating her own world; Antonioni is doing the same thing through the camera’s lens, manipulating our reality through the static frame of the film. She begins a flirtatious affair with a young stockbroker who sees her as nothing more than a lovely commodity, a plaything to be bought and sold…or kept as a work of Art, hung forever in his own personal gallery. But Vittoria seeks to escape these bonds and reaches for the sky, to sever this earthly tether and choose her own destination. Antonioni’s narrative structure becomes its theme, its placement of objects in relation to the characters within the shot, an almost metaphysical cinematography. He creates an abstract geography through physical objects to help us understand and connect with Vittoria’s feelings, desires, and instincts. If we are left confused or doubtful it’s because she is too. A jagged splinter becomes a metaphor for love, discarded into a water barrel but unable to sink into the murky depths. Or the giant phallic tower that Vittoria rebels against, thrusting herself away from a relationship that is stagnant and impotent. The final seven minutes are sharply minimilistic: Vittoria looks to the wavering treetops, reminiscent of the imaginary forests of Kenya, and she disappears from the bottom of the frame as the bleak and nearly deserted city takes form, a montage that births an urban malaise…devoid of Vittoria and her minor affair. The electric charge of a light casts its glare upon Vittoria’s future; does the empty barrel mean an end, or a new beginning? (A)

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