Last week I watched L’Eclisse (1962) by Michelangelo Antonioni, the last part of a trilogy preceded by L’Avventura (1960) and La Notte (1961). A film with a minimal, incidental plot: A well-off girl with a lot of time to kill, breaks up with her boyfriend, goes through a difficult phase, feels let down by friends and her own mother (the latter is a stock exchange regular, too focused on her addiction to care); girl meets young aspiring stock exchange broker and a new affair begins… until they fail to meet at a rendezvous and the circle is complete.
Monica Vitti is the girl (Vittoria) and Alain Delon is the broker (Pierro). His inherent arrogance clashes with her tiptoeing, unsure steps; this unlikely couple is not the film’s strongest feature, in my view. But this did not prevent me from enjoying what I love most about Antonioni’s characters: their ability to float from scene to scene, composing successive tableux vivants where time unfolds slowly, giving the spectator room to sit back and indulge. There is also a scene with references to Africa, incredibly charming but, so politically incorrect, it would never have made it past the editing room today. And an incredible five or seven last minutes with images of the city and its people, growing increasingly lonely, emotionless, as the evening progresses and the darkness falls.
As a true Antonioni film, even if not one of his favourites, it felt like stepping into an art exhibition. Which was precisely what we did the morning after; it was about time we caught the exhibition ”Michelangelo Antonioni, Il Maestro del cinema moderno” only a day before closing. It was hosted by the Centre of Fine Arts (to its friends Bozar) and included film excerpts, photographs, original screenplays, letters, and paintings by the Master himself. The voyeur in me loves to delve into little private corners of an artist’s life, peer through his private mail, get a behind-the-scenes glimpse… photography was not allowed but we managed to sneak these just before the guard pointed his forbidding finger at us…
La Notte is my favourite of the trilogy – talking about a ‘dream’ cast:
Peering through the glass: a handwritten letter by Alain Delon, in an elegant clear hand (or was it his secretary’s?) informing Antonioni that, unfortunately, his commitment to Laurence of Arabia (1962) would not permit him to join the cast in L’Eclisse. He meant, of course, the part that finally went to Omar Sharif… Another letter from Jeanne Moreau, asking Antonioni to let her know the time schedule of shooting, as she would like to organize her agenda… I was impressed by her discreet and respectful tone… A letter from Andrei Tarkovsky, in Russian, apparently supporting Antonioni who was facing difficulties with one of his projects… A congratulatory telegram from Martin Scorsese…
There was also an award box: an Oscar, a Golden Lion, a Palme d’Or… that’s the closest I have been to the celebrated trophies, but some of them were fake: the Oscar and the Golden Lion had been stolen in a burglary and were replaced by copies. The Oscar had even got the wrong date on…
Antonioni’s work is often put alongside that of artists like Rothko, Pollock and Morandi. There were excerpts from all his films but the centre of attention were those from Zabriskie Point (1970) and The Passenger (1975)… the parallelism is easy; the spectacular explosion in slow motion in Zabriskie Point, in all its random beauty, is totally Pollock.
The Antonioni exhibition is now closed, but you can still catch the Morandi one; on until 22 September 2013
Centre for fine Arts
Rue Ravenstein 23
Photos by Konstantinos Implikian