Il deserto rosso (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964) wr. Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra; Monica Vitti, Richard Harris, Carlo Chionetti
Red Desert (Italian: Il deserto rosso) is a 1964 Italian film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Monica Vitti with Richard Harris. It was Antonioni's first color film. The story follows a troubled woman (Vitti) living in an industrial region of Northern Italy following a recent automobile accident.
Il deserto rosso was awarded the Golden Lion at the 25th Venice Film Festival in 1964. This was the last in a series of four films he made with Vitti between 1959 and 1964, preceded by L'Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), and L'Eclisse (1962).
This is a bit more fun than the dour ‘trilogy’ (Adventure/Night/Eclipse). At least there are colours to look at. Grey, for example.
In one scene, he had the middle section of a ship in a breakers yard painted red so that he could fill the screen with red behind the character. I was quite surprised in the next shot that he lets us see that only that section was painted. He even left the painters seat hanging from davits.
In another scene he crammed about six characters in a shack into a tiny room only big enough to hold a bed: the inside walls are painted something I’ll call orange. It’s not long before one of the walls is ripped out to feed the stove, and we see each board with the orange on one side from that room and the white on the other from this one (if you know what I mean). And when the boards are all taken out, we have this room with one end all orange (if you’re keeping up) and the other … oh just watch the damn thing.
Whereas earlier MA films looked a bit like a b/w art photographic exhibition with the shots joined together, this one looks an exhibition of paintings of a certain period end to end.
It’s a bit more contemporary (with 2017, when I'm writing this) than the films of 1960-2 in that it has a key character incarcerated with some kind of first world neurosis, and also many shots which would now be seen as environmentalist: commenting on pollution.
Richard Harris walked off it. It’s not surprising.
Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 1 March, 2017 | Now: 26 February, 2022