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The conclusion of Michelangelo Antonioni’s informal trilogy on modern malaise, which began with L’avventura, L’eclisse (The Eclipse) tells the story of a young woman (Monica Vitti) who leaves one lover (Francisco Rabal) only to drift into a relationship with another (Alain Delon).
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Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse rolls over you and wraps you in its stylish embrace. The plot, such as it is, follows Vittoria (luscious Monica Vitti, The Red Desert) as her engagement falls apart and she slowly falls into a giddy but anxious affair with Piero (Alain Delon, Le Samourai, Purple Noon), a trader in Rome's stock exchange. Like Ingmar Bergman (Scenes from a Marriage, Persona), Antonioni examines the nuances of human relationships--but where Bergman is dense and dialogue-driven, Antonioni is spare and visual (there's maybe a page of dialogue in the first fifteen minutes of L'Eclisse). Every frame is like an exquisite black and white photograph, yet there's nothing static about this movie. It's fluid, sleek, and graceful, achieving its own kind of visual music. L'Eclisse contrasts opposing elements: Light and shadow, noise and silence, laughter and death, love and money, desire and dissatisfaction. Critics often describe the movie as a portrait of modern alienation, but they focus too much on Vittoria herself; while she finds her own life wanting, all around her Antonioni's camera captures a much larger world, full of as much vitality as despair, as much hope as loss. This is a movie essential to anyone's understanding of what movies can be. --Bret FetzerAdditional Features:
Film scholars love talking about L'Eclisse because the film is so open to interpretation, and the various commentaries and essays included in this Criterion package go in all directions. Interestingly, Antonioni himself--captured in a documentary (Michelangelo Antonioni: The Eye That Changed Cinema) that breezily zips through his lengthy career--comes across as throughtful and rigorous but also self-effacing and down-to-earth. He declines to interpret the movie, though he has many lucid and intriguing things to say about film and life in general. A couple of scholars in another documentary (Elements of Landscape) are far more aggrandizing, though they have their interesting points. But the commentary that accompanies the film--by Richard Pena, the program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center--is the most valuable of the extras; Pena, though very much an academic, is alert to the movie's sensual pleasures and celebrates them as much as any ideas. He also provides useful information about Antonioni, Rome, and the 1960s. Cheerful and unpretentious (even when tossing around critical language like 'mise en scene' and 'text'), Pena's commentary is thoroughly engaging and illuminating. --Bret Fetzer
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