Saturday, January 15, 2011

Antonioni Rocks!

First post of 2011! Let's start with a bang, with one of my favorite film directors of all time, and his dealings with pop music. Michelangelo Antonioni's introspective, often quiet, sometimes impenetrable movies have moved me, challenged me, annoyed me. In 1996, Antonioni decides to finally get out of Italy to make his next movie, and goes to England to capture the spirit of the 60's. Blow Up became a cult movie for everyone nostalgic of that era. He had managed to capture the insouciance, the aesthetics, and the collective aspirations of the youth, which Antonioni likens to a hallucination, a mirage. But a mirage can be real if everyone can see it, and reality is worthless if no one perceives it... A great example of the theme is the scene during the Yarbirds concert:

Public, private and intrinsic value: a lesson in economy and game theory by the Maestro!

After the critical success of Blow Up, Antonioni gets more ambitious, obtains a big budget for a movie to be shot in the US. Again, his goal is to capture the ideals of the youth, this time in America, with their illusions and delusions. Of course he goes way over budget, and his perfectionism annoys the hell out of the producers, the actors and everyone else involved. In particular, he made Jerry Garcia play the theme to the Love Scene tens of times, while giving him very vague indications and reasons why he wasn't quite happy. I don't know if he was finally satisfied with the result or just took pity on Garcia, but the result plays an integral part in the most moving love scene in cinema history, if you ask me (ignore the initial dubbed dialogue, and forgive me that it's cut a bit too short at the end, but that's all I could find) :

(Daria Halprin, who I believe only ever made this one movie, just makes me melt)

There's another great scene in Zabriskie Point with music by Pink Floyd, but it would give away too much of the movie, and I just want you to go rent it now.

I think the excerpt above convinced you that Antonioni would have made a great music video director, and, well, it's not common knowledge that he indeed made one in the 80's! It's a song by Italian pop star Gianna Nannini, which, even though it has dated a bit, still packs an emotional punch in my opinion. Gianna is very cute with that boyish 80's look, the beret and the suspenders, and there's something in the lyrics that makes you want to sing the song out loud (borrowed from David Saul Rosenfeld's fantastic online book on l'Eclisse):

Questo amore è una camera a gas (This love is a gas chamber)
è un palazzo che brucia in città (it’s a building that is burning in the city)
Questo amore è una lama sottile (This love is a thin razor blade)
è una scena al rallentatore (it’s a scene in slow motion)
Questo amore è una (This love is a)
bomba all’hotel (bomb in a hotel)
Questo amore è una (This love is a)
finta sul ring (fake move in the boxing ring)
è una fiamma (it’s a flame that)
che esplode nel cielo (explodes in the sky)

And here's the song:

It may look like any other video from that era, but Antonioni said that, unlike other videos of the time, he used his patented long shots, and that's because he wanted the video to tell a little story. Don't you dare vote "kitsch"! ;)