Wednesday, 1 August 2012

the red desert (w&d antonioni, w guerra)

A film washed in a desaturated glow of genius. Almost impossible to say with any degree of certainty what this is about. Mental illness/ environmentalism/ marriage. Riddled with moments of brilliance. At its heart a performance which leapfrogs the extraordinary. Monica Vitti, given license  to be peculiar, febrile, feminine. A figure on the verge of a nervous breakdown. A landscape that glows with a meaning which is never revealed. Through a pall of fog. Industrial. Maritime. Psychological. Psychosexual. Make out. The film's longest sequence ... a strange dockside shack which the characters end up literally deconstructing. Ripping its red planks to pieces. Was this the desert? Who knows. Not even the author. Amoral bourgeoisie or outliers for the swinging sixties. The postwar hedonists we have all become. Scope for interpretation vast. Excessive. Text over-ripe with signifiers. Desolate industrial wasteland. The boy that couldn't walk. A woman seeking to determine what shade of paint to put on the walls of a shop with nothing in it. 

No-one created atmosphere in the movies like Antonioni. Walking into his various scenes is like walking into different rooms. Never knowing what to expect. Is it a good party? Is it a bad party? You can never be sure. His movies are balancing acts, constantly on the verge of teetering into the ridiculous, constantly resisting. I have nothing intelligent to say about this movie. It is sublime, but fails to fit into any normal cinematic discourse. It exists in a language of images. If words were still pictograms I might have stood a chance. Of making sense. Of making sense of it.

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