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Best Michelangelo Antonioni Movies

Updated on October 2, 2012

Michelangelo Antonioni: The Wizard of Avant-Garde Cinema

I was introduced to Michelangelo Antonioni at a very young age, I was 17 and very passionate about avant-garde literature and films. There was a film festival in the city and Antonioni was the featured director. I believe they have shown 7 of his best movies including Blowup, Red Desert, The Adventure, The Night, Zabriskie Point, The Passenger and Eclipse. His talent had fascinated me more and more with every movie I saw.

Antonioni was born in Northern Italy into a working class family. He says his childhood was very happy. He was always into drawing and music. He discovered cinema when he was a teenager. He studied economics at the University of Bologna and started writing for the local Ferrara newspaper Il Corriere Padano as a film journalist.

His first full length movie was Cronaca di un amore (The Story of A Love Affair /1950). Although he says he always had sympathy for working class or poor people, his movies reflect his bourgeois roots more than anything else. Unfortunately, Michelangelo Antonioni had a stroke in 1985 that severely limited his productivity, he also lost his ability to talk during the last few years of his life until his death in 2007. He was 94 years old. His success as a director brought him world wide recognition and enabled him to direct films outside Italy. He directed "Blowup" in 1966 in London, "Zabriskie Point" in 1975 and "The Passenger" in 1975 in USA. These 3 films were in English.

Antonioni's Language

What is avant-garde anyway?

I wasn't able to explain what was so fascinating about Michelangelo Antonioni's language when I was only 17, but I knew I wanted to explore everything I could get my hands on. That's when I first heard the word "avant-garde which, funny as it may sound, is a military term used for troops leading an attack across the battlefield (advance guard). The way it translates into the world of art, literature and music is that it breaks new grounds, explores new ways of seeing things. This is a movement that has started in the 20's and early 30's but the most ground breaking examples came after the WWII. It is also called experimental or alternative cinema (or music, or art).

Avant-Garde Cinema

MOST IMPORTANT MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI MOVIES

L'Avventure (The Adventure)
L'Avventure (The Adventure)

L'AVVENTURA (The Adventure) 1960

The first film of Antonioni's trilogy with an existentialist look at love and affairs in the post industrial world of the 60's. The other 2 films are "b> (The Night 1961) and "L'Eclisse (The Eclipse 1962). "Industrial world" and its effects on the individuals always created the foundation of Antonioni's movies. These 3 movies with 3 different love stories are masterpieces of "love, romance and loneliness" in the most painful existentialistic way.

Il Deserto Rosso (Red Desert)
Il Deserto Rosso (Red Desert)

IL DESERTO ROSSO (Red Desert) 1963

This film is a milestone in the filmography of Michelangelo Antonioni because it was the very first color movie he directed. The same year, it brought him the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. The film is about Giuliana, who gets out of the hospital after a suicide attempt. She feels estranged and distant from her family and the rest of the world. Antonioni works once again with one of his most favorite actresses Monica Vitti. In this first color movie, Antonioni used his painting skills and treated the film as a canvas on which he can paint whatever he wanted. He created a world of colors of his own without restricting himself to natural colors (like painting the trees white in a later movie).

BLOWUP (1966)

This is Antonioni's first movie in English, filmed in London in the mid-sixties. Inspired by JULIO CORTAZAR's short story The Devil's Drool, the film opens up with a photographer's coincidental involvement in a murder while developing some pictures he took earlier at a park. The film features young VANESSA REDGRAVE and JANE BIRKIN and there is a cameo by THE YARDBIRDS.

Zabriskie Point
Zabriskie Point

ZABRISKIE POINT (1970)

This is Michelangelo Antonioni's first movie in the United States. Although it was filmed in 1970, the story takes place in the late sixties, in Los Angeles area. It is the portrayal of the counter culture of the era and it opens up with a documentary like scene between black and white students. The Film included music from Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead and many others. Some of the scenes were filmed at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, CA.

YouTube

The Passenger Antonioni
The Passenger Antonioni

THE PASSENGER (1975)

This is Antonioni's last movie in English. The film features Jack Nicholson (reporter), Maria Schneider and Stephen Berkoff. This movie is about a reporter who is filming a documentary in the post colonial Africa. This movie received rave reviews about its remarkable camera work.

Helen Mirren on Michelangelo Antonioni

Some books you might find interesting on Michelangelo Antonioni and his films:

Which of these Antonioni films is your most favorite?

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What are your thoughts on Italian cinema and Michelangelo Antonioni?

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    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 5 years ago

      I have seen very little Italian cinema- Cinema Paradiso is one of my fav films! I must watch the films you've listed here, I know I'd like them!

    • puerdycat lm profile image

      puerdycat lm 6 years ago

      How new and attractive "blow up" was. I think some of these titles may airing. Nicholson was remarkable in his early appearances. Just watching him in the Passenger! and of course that's just a small part of Antonioni's magic (or so many other words that describe him). Thanks for this!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

      I'm not familiar with Italian cinema; thanks for the introduction.

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      Once again you have introduced me to someone who I knew nothing about. Very well presented.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Great lens content! For sure keep the first video on the lens, but perhaps flip flop it with one that talks more about Antonioni himself, to keep interest on the right topic.