L’eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1962)

A young woman meets a vital young man, but their love affair is doomed because of the man's materialistic nature.

Monica Vitti, Alain Delon, Francisco Rabal

As I did with L’avventura, I’ve now also watched L’eclisse again for the second time in fifty years. From that first viewing I retained only one memory, of a scene which I misremembered as closing the movie: it comes at about the 39th minute. Monica Vitti is wandering around as usual, and comes upon a row of flagpoles, with the halliards clattering against them in the wind.

I’m not really surprised, having now seen the film again, that this is all I remember, as there is nothing much to remember. There is virtually no story: girl loses boy, gets another, loses him. There is only a succession of scenes placed before a languidly mobile camera. And sounds: wind, particularly, the noise at the stock exchange (twice – why?), jarring background music, water. As Pauline Kael memorably wrote about this film: ‘Some like it cold’.

Ingmar Bergman once told an interviewer that he considered Antonioni—as well as Carl Dreyer—an amateur and Monica Vitti a talented but technically insecure performer. The truth is that Bergman is a master of conventional film technique, the way a good professional does it, by the rules; and that Antonioni—like Dreyer—is the kind of artist who goes his own way in disregard of the rules and achieves an unconventional mastery. The conventional camera is a storyteller that knows the story and picks out for us at each moment just what we need to see; Antonioni’s camera continually explores the alternative, the stray aspect, the revising angle, the newly revealing movement. And its inquiry into appearances, its searching rather than knowing apprehension of things, finds its acting counterpart in the similarly searching Monica Vitti. Her engaging diffident verve consorts with the uncertain beauty, the arresting tentativeness, the detached intensity of Antonioni’s images. What Bergman calls her insecurity—a fair enough term for her characteristic tinge of self-consciousness—Vitti makes into a style of performance, one that couldn’t be better suited to her partnership with Antonioni. Gilberto Perez.

reviews | Garry Gillard | New: 27 February, 2017 | Now: 27 March, 2017