August 2016 Blindspot: L’Avventura

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The Blindspot Series is a series of twelve posts spread throughout the year designed to offer bloggers a chance to catch up classic films we somehow may have missed. Started by The Matinee, here is my list of Blindspot films for 2016. I’ve been long absent, but I’m back in August with Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura.

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There’s a reason why I don’t get to a lot of these films, and a reason I don’t watch a lot of foreign films in general. A lot of times they’re really challenging for me to get through. It beats me why I chose this one to get back into the Blindspot series and film reviewing in general (my last one was back in the beginning of May), but I’m back now and I’m trying to make the best of it. To say I found L’Avventura on the whole confusing is an understatement, but that doesn’t mean some of the smaller moments in the film went unappreciated.

Anna (Lea Massari) is an unhappy young woman who seems to be at odds with everyone around her. She goes on vacation with a group of her friends to a remote volcanic island and after getting into an argument with her fiance, Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), she disappears. Her best friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) is especially distraught. She and Sandro stay on the island looking for Anna until their friends bring the police, but no one can find Anna or her body anywhere. Sandro and Claudia then continue their vacation trying to track Anna down, all the while fighting and eventually succumbing to the attraction between then.

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There’s a type of filmmaking that is more concerned with evoking a mood rather than telling a specific story or examining specific characters, and what Antonioni is doing here definitely falls under that category. There are a lot of films like that that I enjoy, but with L’Avventura I struggled to get on board. There’re a lot of specifics that are assumed and gone unanswered, and I just couldn’t let them go.

This is probably partially because of the mood the film does evoke, it’s strangely dry and airless. The film is set all around Italy, usually outside of ruins or other substantial buildings, but also the whole beginning takes place on that island. There’s a strange absence of people most of the time, so most of the scenes give the impression of taking place in a vacuum between the two leads. The film is very deliberately paced, spending a lot of time on characters walking around looking for Anna, or having a conversation. Because the camera is almost always locked down, you sort of feel stuck when you’re watching the film. That you have to watch these characters in this scene because there’s no where else to go. It’s a very disconcerting feeling to get while watching a film.

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While the mood may not exactly be my taste, you have to admit it creates a unique viewing experience. There’s also not a lot to focus on outside of that mood, because the characters aren’t really developed that well. I suppose we can get to know Anna through her disappearance and the small amount of time we spend with her before she leaves, but the characters she leaves in her wake remain inscrutable. I have no idea why Sandro should decide he loves Claudia, or why Claudia should decide to reciprocate. That remains my biggest problem with the film; I knew why I was watching Antonioni’s filmmaking, but not why I was watching these two characters.

That said, I found a weird strain of misogyny running through the film. Not really as emblematic of the point of view of the film itself, but as shown in the film over and over again. Sandro, let it be said, is basically a cad. He doesn’t pay attention to Anna when she is there, and doesn’t seem that concerned about her when she leaves. I mentioned before that the film doesn’t have a lot of extras, but there is one scene that employs hundred and it’s of a bunch of men crowding around a famous prostitute. There are no women in that scene at all. Later, something similar happens to Claudia when she’s waiting outside for Sandro to come back. There are literally swarms of men in this movie and nothing much is made of it, but it really stuck out to me.

L’Avventura was a strange adventure indeed. I’m not sure if I’d ever go back to it or what exactly I’m missing here, but it’s good to back to reviewing at least. Though I appreciate on some level the filmmaking going on here, the story fell really flat for me on this one. I wish I has some better answers, but for now I’ll have to be satisfied with the off mood Antonioni left me with.

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Long story short: 3/4 stars

For Further Reading:

Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies” review 
Sight and Sound article
New York Times review

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2 responses to “August 2016 Blindspot: L’Avventura

  1. Nice review Hunter. I’ve mean meaning to watch this for quite a long time; I’ve only started getting into Antonioni recently, having watched only Blowup and The Passenger, and I loved both of those pictures. Better watch this one soon.

    • Thanks ck! I saw Blowup a couple years ago and loved it (a lot more than I did this movie ha ha) I’ll definitely need to see this one again someday to fully appreciate it, but I’m glad I got it done for blindspot at least. Haven’t seen the passenger or anything else by Antonioni but I definitely should get on that!

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