Michelangelo Antonioni once described his work as “archeological research” which sifted through “the arid remains of our times”. If Fellini claimed to treat the past as science fiction, Antonioni gazed deeply into the future already visible in the present (L’Eclisse) or a past which uneasily hung onto a present that had outlived it (L’Avventura). Born in an upper-middle class family in Ferrara in 1912; Antonioni studied economics at the University of Bologna, where he staged works by Luigi Pirandello as well as original work written by himself. Antonioni’s time as a film critic for the Roman Cinema magazine brought him in contact with Cesare Zavattini, Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti and others. For Rossellini, he would co-write Un pilota ritorna and with Fellini, he collaborated on the screenplay of his first feature The White Shiek.
Antonioni, however, yearned to begin his own career in film. To this end, he enrolled at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinemografia… read more
21st Century cinema was essentially born with Antonioni. He seized hold of certain central characteristics (boredom, disconnection, drift) of modern life and established an appropriate formal strategy for representing them cinematically. These characteristics haven't fundamentally altered for most of us since then, and the formal strategies he developed are equally appropriate (judicious, congruent) to their cinematic representation now. Tsai, Jia, Tarr, Reichardt, etc. are his children, each patiently attending (from a slight, although not entirely safe, remove) to our mysterious disease of the now.
Ingmar Bergman, in the autumn of his life, old and cranky, talked about how boring Godard was, how overrated Orson Welles was; he was wrong on both counts. But he got it right when he said that Antonioni only made two great movies, Blow Up and La Notte. I adore Blow Up and La Notte, but I find all of his other movies painfully boring.