Saturday, December 07, 2013
Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 9/1/08 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni with a script he co-wrote with Tonino Guerra, Elio Bartolini, and Ottiero Ottieri. L'Eclisse tells the story of a literary translator who meets a young, energetic stockbroker where for the summer, they engage in a passionate romance. Afterwards, the two try to go for a steady relationship that comes into conflict with their individual lifestyles. Starring Antonioni regular Monica Vitti along with Alain Delon, Francisco Rabal, and Louis Seigner. L'Eclisse is an eerie yet engaging film from the late Michelangelo Antonioni.
After breaking up with Riccardo (Francisco Rabal) after a tumultuous relationship, Vittoria (Monica Vitti) decides to leave him pondering what she does next. After trying to tell her mother (Lilla Brignone) about the break-up, she meets a young stockbroker named Piero (Alain Delon) who is trying to get some stock for Vittoria's mother. Despondent over the break-up, she gets the attention of neighbor Anita (Rosanna Rory) where they decide to hang out with Marta (Mirella Riccardi), who shows her things and objects from Africa. After a wild night where Vittoria dressed up and darkened her skin to look African, dogs go loose where Vittoria ponders her newfound loneliness. She decides to go with Anita on a trip.
Back in Rome, the stock market takes a dive as Piero tries to help Vittoria's mother with her losses as he's overwhelmed with all that he has to deal with. Vittoria watches in how the people are losing their stock as she has a brief chat with Piero that leads to an attraction. After a night of dealing with stock losses, Piero decides to go to Vittoria's apartment to chat with her as he waits outside where a drunk (Cyrus Elias) steals his car as it's later plunged into a nearby lake. The next day, Piero and Vittoria check out the scene as they walk and chat as an attraction ensues. Yet, Vittoria is resistant of Piero's advances but when she tried to call him, she's unsure. The next day, they meet again as they go to Piero's apartment as she sees his rooms filled with rich things and a quiet town as their affair begins. Yet, the affair is doomed due to Piero's devotion to his work and Vittoria's mood swings as changing times also affects them and the people around them.
The theme of alienation, that is prominent with several of Michelangelo Antonioni's films, is key to what the film is about. Yet, it's also about loss. For Vittoria, a relationship comes to an end for her prompting her to engage in various mood swings where at times, she's happy but most of the time is feeling depressed. For Piero, a young man driven by gambles and making money for himself and everyone else loses control when the stock market takes a dive as his world of materialism becomes unhinged. The two protagonists engage in an affair yet their own different environments and personalities is what keeps them in having a relationship. What the film is really about is two people, lost in their own worlds, getting together only to realize how different they are. Antonioni and co-screenwriter create a film that's essentially a study on isolation. Not just emotionally but also physically.
The physicality of the theme of isolation is largely due to the eerie, mesmerizing direction of Antonioni. With very little dialogue, lots of sound work, and atmospheric compositions, Antonioni also sets the stage of what might happen as the world changes. There's scenes where the physical locations and objects like a water barrel or Rome itself sets up the sense of loneliness as the two protagonists are desperate for some kind of connection. The film's final sequence that involves a series of images of the physical locations to emphasize the film's theme while adding to the fate of Vittoria and Piero's relationship.
Antonioni's direction is something not everyone will enjoy as the film starts off slow (like a lot of his films) yet often come out very rewarding in its second and third act. There's a scene in the film where Vittoria is doing an African pantomime but with darkened skin that might conjure up the idea of black face. Now, it's a scene that will make audiences uncomfortable. It again reveals the troubled mood swings of Vittoria as she tries to make herself happy until one of her friends at the party tells her to stop. Antonioni isn't trying to imply anything racist but is more interested in what this woman is trying to do in order to keep her mood upbeat. Yet, it's followed by a scene of dogs running around a road where her mood goes down once again. What those scenes and many other confirms is the genius of Antonioni and how he's willing to study the themes of loss and isolation.
Cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo does spectacular work with the film's black-and-white look with wonderful interior, nighttime shading and the exterior look of the film where at night. The night lights in those scenes are very exquisite and adds a moodiness to emphasize the film's title. Even the final sequence with shots of grey colors are wonderful for its mood as Di Venanzo's work is wonderful to watch. Editor Eraldo Da Roma does excellent with the film's slow yet methodical pacing to allow the audience to interpret in what's going on as it's rhythm works to convey the moodiness Antonioni wanted.
Art director Piero Poletto does excellent work with the set design in the look of Marta's home filled with African artifacts while the home of Piero is more posh and materialistic to convey his unique personality. Costume designers Bice Brichetto and Gitt Magrini do great work with the costumes from the slim yet gorgeous skirts that Monica Vitti to the suits that Alain Delon wears. The sound work of Renato Cadueri and Claudio Maielli is amazing for its haunting approach to the capturing of the winds, the frenzy of the stock market, and the ghost-like feel to the locations the protagonists are in. The music of Giovanni Fusco is mostly filled with dark yet subtle arrangements as it plays to the film's eerie mood of the film.
The small yet amazing cast is wonderfully assembled with small performances from Cyrus Elias as a drunk who steals Piero's car and Louis Seigner as an old yet wise advisor of Piero. Rosanna Rory and Mirella Riccardi are good as two of Vittoria's friends who try to help raise Vittoria's mood with Rory as Anita is a character dealing with her marriage with Riccardi as the more adventurous Marta. Lilla Brignone is excellent as Vittoria's mother, a woman driven by gambles and the stock market until the crash as her money and livelihood becomes threatened. Francisco Rabal is very good as Vittoria's bland yet good-natured boyfriend who is desperate to want to remain together despite their problems.
The film's leading performances from Monica Vitti and Alain Delon are a major highlight of the film. Vitti displays an intoxicating beauty mixed in with troubled emotions as her character is intriguing to watch as a woman dealing with mood swings and trying to fit into a world that she doesn't really know much about. French actor Alain Delon is great as the energetic Piero, a man driven by gambles and success until the crash as he ponders if there's more to a world of gambling and materialism. The chemistry between Vitti and Delon is wonderful to watch with their banter and attraction to each other as it's filled with sex appeal and restrained emotions.
L'Eclisse is an incredible film from the late Michelangelo Antonioni thanks to the superb performances of Monica Vitti and Alain Delon. While fans of Antonioni and Italian cinema might see this as essential, it's a film that is also essential to the world of art-house, international cinema. Though mainstream audiences might be turned off by its slow pacing and lack of a traditional plot. It's a film that is more in tune with emotions and atmosphere as it conveys Antonioni's themes of loss and isolation. In the end, L'Eclisse is an engrossing yet harrowing film from the late, great Michelangelo Antonioni.
Michelangelo Antonioni Films: (Story of a Love Affair) - (I Vinti) - (The Lady Without Camelias) - Le Amiche - (Il Grido) - L'Avventura - La Notte - Red Desert - Blow-Up - Zabriskie Point - (Chung Kuo, Cina) - The Passenger - (The Mystery of Oberwald) - Identification of a Woman - (Beyond the Clouds) - Eros-The Dangerous Thread of Things
© thevoid99 2013
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