Thursday, April 04, 2013

Michelangelo Antonioni: Il deserto rosso / Red Desert

Michelangelo Antonioni's first color film -- Il deserto rosso / Red Desert / El desierto rojo / Le désert rouge  (1964), presents a stunning palette, splashing colors and light onto buildings, characters and ecosystems in gyroscopic motion. Wild, man, with strange surreal interludes. Fellini's Giulietta degli spiriti / Juliet of the Spirits (1965) takes a similarly wild and colorful plunge. Both films have other things in common, too. For instance, both have a primary woman protagonist -- Monica Vitti, Antonioni's paramour at the time, as Giuliana in Red Desert, and Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wife, as Giuletta in Juliet of the Spirits. Weird enough. Both characters are a bit "touched" -- by an angel, perhaps, but also by post traumatic stress, too. Both are married and somewhat estranged from their husbands. Both experience the world in otherworldly ways.

In Red Desert, we see a dizzying range of shapes and forms, some natural, some human-made. We see mists and steam and fumes and ships and shacks and puddles and pipes and even a robot ~ it's all in there, and it's all pretty strange when laid out sequence by sequence. The music is a bit "touched," as well. The imagery and sound effects remind me of William Blake, responding to the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s:

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Many of these patterns and shapes are beautiful, too, bringing to mind Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal / The Flowers of Evil (1857).

In Red Desert, Antonioni seems to be saying, this is the way it is. Get used to it, or not. And really, what's remarkable is how contemporary this film looks fifty years later. The cooling towers, the electrical grids, the waste pools and toxic fields: all of it could be here and now  -- and is.

Today's Rune: Harvest. P.S.: A fond farewell to Roger Ebert.


the walking man said...

There is it seems to be disconnect between them making "art" 60 years ago and today but no matter them of the post beat generation saw the future but did nothing much to course change, only document. LSD does that to ones head.

Charles Gramlich said...

I think I might like this film. The film itself sounds beautiful with the light work in it.

jodi said...

I like things that are a little 'touched' or 'teched' as my Grampa used to say. Wonderful review , Erik, Roger would b proud!