The Cannes Film Festival premiere of L’avventura in 1960 met with catcalls from audiences frustrated with the film’s inconclusiveness and the slowness of its pacing. Like Alfred Hitchcock in the same year’s Psycho, Michelangelo Antonioni upturned expectation by getting rid of his film’s ostensible protagonist early on. Unlike Hitchcock, however, Antonioni provided no explanation for this sudden disappearance of his female star, hinting only at the alienation and ennui that the film depicts as a characteristic of contemporary bourgeois society as a potential cause.
No less radical than this modernistic ambiguity was the Italian master’s controlled use of camera movement and visual composition to dramatise the emotional space between people. The film made a star of Monica Vitti, who plays Claudia, the missing woman’s friend.
“Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece changed the course of Italian neorealism and arthouse cinema. It injected a healthy dose of entropy into conventions of European cinema, where plot and story lost their preeminence, replaced by the potential of a searching, introverted, filmic gaze.” Kaya Genc
“When I first saw L’avventura, at film university, it made me contemplate the idea that a filmmaker could be deliberately obtuse, vague, mystifying, and that it could work so entirely in creating a mood of alienation. Moving on to La notte (1961), Blow-Up (1966) and The Passenger (1975), this was an artist who epitomised the auteurist possibility of a singular cinematic vision structured across an entire body of work. I later saw a documentary on Antonioni in which he described himself as the proponent of the “cinema of miscommunication” – a statement as insightful as it was self-aware. Ironically, his central insight is the modernist breakdown of coherence and unity, in cinema and life. Also, Monica Vitti.” Dario Llinares