Posts Tagged ‘L’Eclisse’

Restored in fine style by Studiocanal and the Independent Cinema Office, Italian auteur Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1962 Cannes Special Jury Prize winning L’Eclisse returns to cinemas – with a first time appearance on Blu-ray – 53 years after its initial release. The film remains both a visual marvel, as well as an astute and troubling critique of life in a modern world; it’s a vision that feels eerily timeless.

The final entry of a superlative, yet informal, trilogy also comprised of L’Avventura (1960) and La Notte (1961), L’Eclisse finds Antonioni exploring his existential concerns upon an increasingly grand scale. While La Notte focused on the relationship breakdown of Marcello Mastroianni’s self-absorbed writer and Jeanne Moreau’s wealthy, unfulfilled wife, L’Eclisse finds a similarly hopeless pair as they encounter one another in the midst of a stock market crash.

Monica Vitti, returning for the third time in the trilogy (and on routinely brilliant form), leaves her older lover and soon encounters a young stockbroker played by the annoyingly stylish Alain Delon (Plein Soleil, Le Samouraï.) In Antonioni’s trademark style, the two drift into each other’s lives, in a casual, non-committal manner and this is how their relationship remains. It is the petit flirtation that makes the pair so enticing to watch, but their city lives and aspirations limit them from forming a meaningful connection.

Such lack of humane engagement is best displayed in one would-be-tragic sequence, in which a drunk steals Delon’s sports car and comes to an unfortunate end in a river. The characters respond to this ostensibly tragic moment with frivolous discussion of the repair costs for the vehicle. Yet, Antonioni’s approach is never particularly critical of this behaviour; it is as if the director regards this as the natural state of people in this time and sets out to at least enjoy it with his detached (and technically virtuosic) image of cool.

While the film is perhaps less captivating in it’s depiction of the failings of modern relationships as La Notte, L’Eclisse truly endeavours to deal with something bigger: the transience of the human story. Just as the impeccably cool leads forget the ill-fated drunk driver, the film itself eventually disregards the protagonists themselves (and perhaps for the best, given Vitti’s character’s less-than-enlightened colonialist behaviour in an early scene and Delon’s detached moral outlook.) It is this bold disregard for character and plot that leaves us as an audience in a genuine state of crisis and makes the film so powerful.

Contrary to the life goal often attributed to James Dean (and actually spoken by John Derek in Knock on Any Door (1949) – to “live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse” – Antonioni seems to tell us not to put faith in our more superficial desires. What mark can we hope to make on a world of stock markets, fast cars and good looks? L’Eclisse is a fascinating essay on this question and it’s all the more profound due to the master director’s refusal to offer us an answer.

Read Full Post »

If you’d ever wondered what art cinema giant Michelangelo Antonioni would have made of the Perez Hilton generation, then your search has ended. The Italian auteur specialised in reflecting a desperate emptiness in modern life, turning his gaze on the complacent bourgeois lifestyles of the 50’s and 60’s. Cut to the present day and Sofia Coppola stakes her claim as a possible heir to Antonioni’s illustrious throne. The Bling Ring, her 5th feature, carries on her run of films exploring our obsession with celebrity and a general ennui lingering in the Hills.

Strangely, Antonioni’s films have a distinct kinship with the reality TV that stumbled vacantly across our screens in the 00’s. Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s coiffured, mannequin-like appearances and banal, empty chat could easily fit into the upper class emptiness of L’Avventura or L’Eclisse. The mindless, rabid obsession with glamour comes to the fore in Blow Up, about a fashion photographer in 60’s London. While Coppola’s film is focusing on a distinct subculture, there is a lineage here which anticipates the craze. The Bling Ring takes its title from a real life set of LA brats, who stole into the news by gatecrashing a number of celebrity mansions and getting away with hordes of bling.

Led by the seemingly sweet Rebecca (Katie Chang), the group of rich kids cotton onto the fact that certain celebrities are leaving their homes empty to attend glossy parties, and decide to try on a different pair of shoes for the night. Marc (Israel Broussard) is the new kid at school and eager to make friends, even if it means stealing. Emma Watson ditches her wizard robes for a Prada dress as the diva-ish Nicki, while another couple of friends tag along. There is scant probing into the psychology behind the crimes, leaving an eerie, unsettling atmosphere to the film.

As a piece of narrative, the film is rather repetitive and episodic, with little development. Like her previous films, specifically Somewhere, Coppola seems to revel in draining all the conflict out of the story in order to present a mundane reality. The Bling Ring is essentially a series of break ins, joyrides and parties, all filmed in a slightly detached manner; but Coppola’s film is nevertheless hypnotic and compelling. While Harmony Korine‘s similarly themed Spring Breakers veered towards poetic pronouncements, Coppola opts for more banal reflections.

Sofia Coppola has always walked a thin line between being self absorbed and genuinely insightful. Her films have often been criticised for being indulgent of her own niche existence, but I would argue that her niche has something to offer to the rest of the world. Not many working film makers can conjure the laconic, wistful atmosphere that she does, and she is an exquisite stylist. Cinematographer Harris Savides, who sadly passed away, captures the action with an observatory eye that is subtly alluring and yet detached, while regular music supervisor Brian Reitzell evokes an eerie night time feel with his mix of brash hip hop and simmering krautrock rhythms.

The Bling Ring is far from Coppola’s best work, and on paper should be thoroughly boring, yet it is oddly engrossing and quietly scathing.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: