Michelangelo Antonioni died just a few hours after Bergman on Monday night. How strange. The two men did not know each other nor did they appreciate each other particularly. In fact, Bergman was heard commenting that he found Antonioni’s films boring, except for Blow-up. Perhaps Antonioni’s films seemed too realistic, or too pessimistic for Bergman. In 1960 Antonioni marched past the already wilted Italian neorealism movement with L’Avventura, the first in a trilogy which also comprised La Notte in 1961 and L’Eclisse in the following year, a high-pitched look at men and women on the margins, drifting away. Understanding what took place in the 60s means understanding the Antonioni trilogy, the advent of a whimsical, tormented decade.
To look at Blow-Up, the 1966 suspense thriller which Antonioni shot in the English language (his first such film) as a statement on the superficiality (on mores, fashion, etc.) would be to underestimate his aim, however. Blow-up could have been made by a Londoner just as well. It was simply a reflection on the times, enhanced by low-level intrigue, sophisticated characters and existentialist smokescreens which would have made Heidegger himself batty. Is one’s own perception of reality the same one as everyone else’s? With these films mentioned above, Antonioni has made devotees out of his audiences and left what will remain a very important body of work, to be watched and appreciated again.