Saturday, October 15, 2011

Top Ranked Films of Michaelangelo Antonioni

Michaelangelo Antonioni
Tied for 24th with 6 titles in the top 1000, ranked 26th in pts, 21045

Antonioni was another in the new wave of Italian post-war realists, along with Rossellini, Fellini, De Sica, Visconti, and others. His 1960 black-and-white film L’avventura was his personal breakthrough and his masterpiece. He probably deserves to be higher ranked, but then he didn’t have a high volume of top quality output either, though all six of his ranked films are in the top 500. There were no more of his films mentioned in all the polls.

These are all the films of Antonioni that made the top 1000 in our 2011 update of the Top Ranked 1000 Films on the Net, all polls.

1. L'avventura (1960) Italy, bw #183
2. Blow-Up (1966) #210
3. Passenger, The (1975) #250
4. L'Eclisse (1962) #286
5. La Notte (1961) #357
6. Red Desert (1964) #408

L’avventura is one of my favorite films. First booed at Cannes by the audience, it was then given a special jury award for “cinematic beauty, for making us look at films a new way”. Unlike traditional films when the story is told by the narrative itself, usually in a chronological sequence of events, in Antonioni’s classic the story is told through visual cues and cinematic metaphors, and in which the story is secondary. Some will like this, some will not, but suffice to say that it influenced a generation of future filmmakers. It should also warrant a second viewing almost immediately so you can watch the visuals again relative to the story. Look for use of architecture as symbols, the metaphor of doorways, juxtaposition of characters in landscapes and interiors both, transitions in movement of characters.

L’avventura is about a group of friends to take a day excursion on a boat to a small island, then when they are ready to leave they can’t find one woman in their party. They eventually scour the small island, she’s not to be found, so they decide to return without her. That’s the basis of the story anyway, but there’s more told in the visuals than the dialogue or action.

L’eclisse followed L’avventura, and is also visually striking, though not nearly as compelling a story. It takes place in a futuristic city designed and begun by Mussolini that was never completed due to the war, and presents a surreal urban landscape in which human forms are dwarfed and alienated. La Notte completed what some call “Antonioni’s BW trilogy”, and though interesting, failed to captivate me anything like L’avventura – it mostly concerns a couple on an evening out at a small party at a friend’s house.

I was never a big fan of Blow-Up, it seems to be the most self-conscious and studied of all his films, yet it remains popular beyond its time. Perhaps it's the live appearance of the Yardbirds, when Jeff Beck smashes his guitar into a malfunctioning amplifier in rock angst, and started the guitar-smashing trend during live concerts. It starts as a possible murder mystery, then whatever semblance of story was there, it disappears in mindless activities such as an all-mimed tennis match.

The tepid Zabriskie Point (1970) also made one poll and came in ranked 2243rd, but it's hardly worth mentioning. Avoid it at all costs.

See the full list of top ranked 100 directors here: Top Ranked 100 Directors, 2011 Edition

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