Sunday, June 29, 2008

[Michelangelo Antonioni Retrospective] Il Deserto Rosso (The Red Desert) (1964)

Don't Come Closer

The first Michelangelo Antonioni movie in color, Red Desert stars Monica Vitti whom audiences would by now be already acquainted with after the successful and acclaimed trilogy with L'Avventura, La Notte and L'Eclisse. While much has been said about Antonioni bringing about a stark palette of colors which highlights the inner psychological turmoil of the characters, or use it to great effect to talk about the negative effects man has on his environment just like how deadly the yellow was representing sulphur, it did plod on a little especially when it dwelled upon the usual relationship factor between its lead characters.

Vitti stars as Giuliana, a woman whom we see in the beginning and get quite uncomfortable with, as she purchases an already eaten piece of food, and going off to a corner to munch on it with much satisfaction. We learn she's a neurotic, a creation of a vehicle accident, and pretty much obsessive compulsive as well. She has funds to open a shop, but doesn't know what to sell. She has a son, but doesn't know what to do with him and is at wits end with his malingering ways. Her husband we get to see for just a bit, but this isn't exactly a story about him too.

Without Vitti in the lead role, I think the fascination with the character ends there. Vitti through her charisma manages to hold your attention, and possibly through this role, highlights her prowess as a commendable actress. I guess it is through her great performance here as an explicitly portrayed confused woman, that made sitting through this story bearable, because otherwise, we'll be stuck with Richard Harris' Corrado Zeller, a rich industrialist with a one track mind, and that's to bed Vitti's Giuliana, at whatever the cost.

And his attempts don't fall short of persistent as well, with his constant probing, requesting, so much so that he's desperate personified. In between their emotional and physical tussle, there were some episodes which stuck out like a sore thumb, perhaps due to my lack of understanding why they should be part of the narrative. One such scene is the story of a young girl which Giuliana tells her son, complete with enactments, which suggests some significance to it. The other though was quite interesting, where a supposed sexual orgy is to have taken place, but what we got to experience was a whole host of party games that a group of men and women engage in, which actually bordered on the weird.

Needless to say I didn't really enjoy the story nor any perceived message it tried to bring across. I do however, continue to admire what Vitti can do within the confines of an Antonioni movie.

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