Friday, July 04, 2008

[Michelangelo Antonioni Retrospective] Identificazione di Una Donna (Identification of a Woman) (1982)

No It Wasn't Pleasurable

As introduced by Lorenzo Codelli, Identification of a Woman was presented in the Cannes Film Festival in 1982 and received a special anniversary award. It's like a personal movie because the lead character Niccolo (Tomas Milian) is a film director, and tells of a personal crisis of the filmmaker. Niccolo was played by a leading Italian actor of the time, Tomas Milian, who was famous for his roles in Italian spaghetti westerns, and was an action star. This was essential the last feature film made by Michelangelo Antonioni before his stroke, before which he spent most of the 80s publishing short stories and exhibiting his abstract paintings.

And personally, my bad track record with Antonioni's post L'Eclisse movies unfortunately continues. I'm pretty sure I'm missing something very obvious (or could be it so subtle it eludes me?) that I'm finding each of them quite difficult to sit through (save for perhaps The Passenger), and to try and see its underlying meaning. Perhaps I am just scratching the surface and in doing so, fail to appreciate what the movie's about and for.

Or maybe Identification of a Woman is indeed the weaker of the lot, because of certain resemblance to plot design with his earlier masterpieces? For starters there seemed to be some repetitive themes revisited, but that I'm fine with because it made it easier to click with and connect. Just like how Niccolo and his squeeze Mavi (Daniela Silverio) spend considerable time at an emotionally empty high society party reminiscent of that in L'Notte, where they nurse issues from the heart, as well as for one to come to terms with the other's secret admirer.

Surely the sex is good, and the movie wastes absolutely no time in getting beneath the sheets for some surprisingly erotic time of a horizontal tango complete with underarm forests, but naturally physical love doesn't compensate for emotional depth absent between the lovers, highlighting something inherent wrong in their relationship. Having anonymous threats made to Niccola also didn't help, as he experienced first hand how these threats got carried out to hurt those he loved. We spend a bit of time with their attempts to escape from a stalker, and even had a technically brilliant sequence involving a deep mist that I thought contemporary movies like Frank Darabont's The Mist, or the video game movie adaptation of Silent Hill, had taken a huge leaf from.

For Niccolo's inability to declare his love and address their conflicts, we get a dose of L'Avventura here. Mavi disappears, and we don't really get to see much of her thereafter. Niccolo tries to launch a search, and we get into the second half of the movie where we see his new relationship with a young actress Ida (Christine Boisson), amongst others which also included one role by Enrica Antonioni. But of course there are issues to grapple with here, and I thought was something I'd understand as well, and that's the continued holding out of the candle for someone else, together with the notion of love versus need, and serving as an emotional crutch. It's not fair of course, but there's more challenges ahead for Niccola in his relationship with Ida to accept, but by the time we get to it, I'd more or less didn't really care for Niccola anymore.

Which probably contrasted to a statement which Lorenzo Codelli shared about what Antonioni said regarding this movie being about its characters. I thought his earlier movies had stronger and more interesting characters, or at least those who can hook my attention down and allowed me to care for them a bit, versus those in this movie. Then again, I suspect I may be on a different wavelength since I enjoyed most of Antonioni's earliest works in the 50s, as compared to the more contemporary ones shown this week so far.

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