"The Vanquished" could go the route of "Reefer Madness", and it does have its fair share of sensationalism. However, this film does have a rather straight face in its storytelling, and the direction from Antonioni is fantastic. The third story in particular struck me as being ahead of its time with its commentary on the media. One could call it a precursor to "Nightcrawler".
Antonioni anticipates films the world we live in, films like The River's Edge, reality television, and the lurid celebrity-making machine of crime and media circus, by fifty years. Still, though I was surprised at his approach to story, the hallmarks of his filmmaking— the ecosystem of the social, the built environment, of labor and economy, ruins, devastated nature, struggling gestures of love— are evident, complex.
The teenagers are represented by two separate yet equally vicious groups: the killers, who are amoral; and the petty criminals, who steal things. These are their stories. Bonk Bonk! Young and Perverted! Two things that go together like Bert and Ernie. What drives these kids? Is it the illicit sex? Tantalizing mounds of cash? Tune in, if you dare!
A cryptic view into the beginning of sensationalism and the first generation of fame hungry egoists. The film was partially a public service to deter such behavior in youth, but sadly I saw this film as the beginning of a social ill that is at present even worse. Thanks to star search reality shows and celebrity obsession, the youngest generation also can't accept the possibility of living an "ordinary" life.
Anthology films typically function less like mosaics than like channel-surfing. As vignettes, their themes match, but they don't coalesce into anything particularly interesting. Intersecting plots are always more compelling. Antonioni doesn't do much for me regardless of what kind of stories he's trying to tell.
As early Antonionis go, this is not up to the level of Story of a Love Affair or the great Il Grido. The movie begins with a newsreel-style indictment of the fame-lusting amorality of contemporary youth, who kill just to see their names in the paper. However, only the English vignette follows through on the premise, and the murderous lad is so peculiar that it comes across as just an oddball fable.
Interesting only so far as the theme and Antonioni's apparent interest in the emerging sociopathy of the Post WWII generation, etc. and I love how he passionately critiques society (and Capitalism).The film falters, but what it lacks in technique it retains in spirit. I always learn and think from Antonioni...his experiments are certainly more probing and authentic than Lars von Trier's. (If that means anything)
The self-proclaimed moralistic intent of this film, to expose the callous violence of youth for thrill or fame, seems disingenuous to me, and the stories ultimately have the same flavor of the tabloids presented in the opening sequence: sensationalist and exploitative, and typical of many teen exploitation films of the 1950's, only with a European flair. Entertaining, but not worth a second viewing.