L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
A woman disappears during a Mediterranean boating trip. But during the search, her lover and her best friend become attracted to each other.Infamously known as one of the masterpieces of the seventh art to have been booed at its first showing at Cannes in 1960. Michelangelo Antonioni’s existential film about the isolation of souls, L’Avventura isn’t one of the most appreciated films of all time. Despite having some elements of mystery and adventure, the simple plot of a woman (Lea Massari) who disappears during a cruise of friends on an Island of Italy and he search of her best friend (Monica Vitti) and her boyfriend (Gabriele Ferzetti) who inevitably fall for each other in the way might even sound a little cliché.
Having myself written a screenplay based on this story, I cannot hide my admiration towards the contemplative elements of Antonioni’s visual storytelling. Of the few Antonioni pictures I have seen, L’Avventura and Blow Up are my favorites. Both films are about mysteries and their central characters are pursuing something that is almost never on the screen. It is the superb cinematography of Antonioni’s spleen story that will let an indelible mark into the cinephiles’ minds.The simplicity of the story and the apparent simplicity of the mise en scène, that is in fact everything but simple, demonstrate how talented and visionary Antonioni’s contemplative masterpiece can be. In some point, as I was asked to participate to a weekly feature on the now defunct website The Cinematheque, I ranked L’Avventura as the greatest road movie along with Ingmar Bergman’s Wild Strawberries. The adventure that represents Antonioni’s film blends with the spirit of the road movie genre. An introspective journey not only on the road but into the characters’ selves. Few movies have demonstrated that the chase is better than the catch and with L’Avventura we are there and the payoff is not the final moments of the film. But I think that this ending is pure genius.
Or I should say that the journey is the road not the destination. It reveals something in the face of viewers and I believe that it is a film that stinks with you for a long time. You have to actually experience it to completely sense the depth and importance of this unique movie.
The Antonioni regular, Monica Vitti has this mysterious presence on film. Full of beauty and sexual magnetism it is no surprise that she was in a relationship with the director until the 1960’s. Antonioni shoots Vitti with the eye of a lover and knows how to unveil her strong sides as her frailty.It is very high brow and not that accessible for the average movie goer but I don’t think you have to be a film critic to actually enjoy the cinematic grandeur that Michelangelo Antonioni has accomplished. As a final note, I would recommend watching Blow Up before getting to L’Avventura but only just to get the kind of vibe that the Italian director carries.