The Steppenwolves – Being somewhat miffed by the current crop of DVD releases I’ve been going through the Criterion Collection catalog by directors as I know of them. Antonioni did The Passenger and Beyond the Clouds as memory serves so I picked L’ Avventura and L’ Eclisse and have proceeded to watch a lot of Monica Vitti be sultry, coy, evasive, provocative, and show endless shocks of the magnificent mane of blonde hair. I would call her the archetypical standard of her era. Is this a good thing I say? Oh yes, yes indeed.
This film does play out as if she walked from the set of one movie to the other, from the seaside coast into ever bustling Rome. Although we do see a lot of the quiet solitude of the suburban outreaches, the main difference in the 2 films being, she left a lot more interesting group of players behind in L’ Avventura. I do like the several cameos of the Italian stock market sans early 1960’s and the striking aerial fly over of a Rome that no longer exist. The use of black and white stock really flushes out the background as dominant as I realize this as a trait of the Antonioni pallet. He knows what look he wants where. I heard he could be a real bitch to work for since there is basically no solid story line in either film. What I took from the Antonioni films was the introduction and ease at which his heroine moved unencumbered. This modern movement in cinema gave way to style over substance.
What do we get? A lot of beautiful, bored, affluent, and restless souls wandering aimlessly around a lovely Italy some 50 years hence when Rome and Paris served as bookends of world culture and fashion. The snippets of insight we get into our characters are debatable since none of them are of any real interest. Like the seaside, ancient architecture, and volcanic islands, these are just locations for adult frivolity. Certainly of more interest and historical essence than any of our protagonist and cohorts, these are just moments that were, imagined or fact, mostly forgettable. Their main focus was true though as these sordid souls eat themselves from the inside out. Thus the sentient being to beast referenced at the start. For the film buff and passing fan, Monica Vitti became the modern dream machine icon of her time long before the bossa nova became passe.