The conclusion of Michelangelo Antonioni?s informal trilogy on modern malaise, which began with L?avventura, L?eclisse (The Eclipse) tells the story of a young woman (Monica Vitti) who leaves one lover (Francisco Rabal) on... more »ly to drift into a relationship with another (Alain Delon).« less
After years of seeking out acceptable VHS copies of L'ECLISSE, at last this elusive, enigmatic, haunting film has come to DVD. To be fair, some VHS copies were not so bad-looking, but few were letterboxed, so many viewers have never seen the film in its original widescreen format. Criterion presents L'ECLISSE in widescreen format and in a clean, beautifully restored print. There is a good amount of rapid flashing in the opening scene, but as we are engulfed in Antonioni's vision of the world this becomes less noticeable. The soundtrack also has the recessed quality familiar from many Criterion releases, but that can be remedied by a volume boost. Apart from these minor criticisms, this is an exemplary release. It may indeed surpass Criterion's edition of L'AVVENTURA in terms of the supplementary material.
On disc two, there is a pair of excellent features: "The Sickness of Eros" features interviews by Antonioni scholars and associates. These people actually have substantial things to say about the film and the director. The other feature, a documentary, "Michelangelo Antonioni: the Eye that Changed Cinema" is a perfect example of its kind. There is a lot of footage of the director discussing his films (and saying interesting things about them) as well as other relevant comments by scholars and collaborators. Of even greater interest are the numerous clips and stills of the director on the set of many of his works. Both these documentary features are eminently re-playable. There is also an informative, film-length commentary by Richard Pena.
L'ECLISSE seems to sum up the ideas that evolve in Antonioni's earlier films from LE AMICHE through LA NOTTE. But it also pares down these ideas and renders them in an abstract, or nearly abstract way. This is why the film is so challenging for some viewers. From the opening shot, we are in Antonioni's world: a composed still-life of a room and its ordinary contents; the camera pans right (here we see the benefit of the widescreen format) and a shirtsleeve is glimpsed; immediately, it moves and we see Francisco. This opening seems to say: humans are part of the world. They live in it, but they are part of it too. Vittoria is then introduced, first from below, the we are allowed to see her whole. The film continues to fragment the characters in this way, cutting off our view of their complete bodies, as if to say the people themselves are not complete. Vittoria's first actual action in the film is to adjust a small, empty picture frame and to reach through it to move some objects on the desk within the scope of the frame. This is another typical Antonioni theme. He expresses it many times with frames, both picture- and window, and with doorways and arches. Humans need to see a shape to reality, a formality of some kind, to make it comprehensible.
Monica Vitti is Vittoria in this 1962 film. She is the ultimate Antonioni existential protagonist. Presumably sometime shortly before the film begins, Vittoria has become aware of a basic human dilemma: life is constantly in a state of change; we try to hold onto emotions and ideas, but the forward-moving nature of existence can render them meaningless' also, there is some mystery under the surface of life. Vittoria ends a relationship that clearly was 'going nowhere', much to the dismay of her nearly immobile lover (Franscisco Rabal). She leaves him and begins a wandering journey, an exploration that makes up the body of the film. Along the way, she will respond in different ways to her gradually evolving state of mind. One response Antonioni's characters often have is to try to escape, symbolically perhaps to transcend their existence. Vittoria accepts an invitation from a friend to fly to Verona and back to Rome in a private plane. The experience is exhilarating, but ultimately empty. She also dresses in native African costume and dances quite well in an attempt to transcend her normal world and normal self. This too is ultimately devoid of real meaning. Very typically of an Antonioni protagonist, Vittoria allows herself to explore the possibility of romance as a kind of escape or distraction. She meets, and apparently becomes emotionally involved with the impossibly handsome, but empty Piero (Alain Delon). Through his association with Vittoria, Piero too becomes aware of the incompleteness of life. At one telling point, Vittoria and Piero are crossing a street; she stops and says "siamo in media" ("we are halfway") with a definite portent in her voice and expression. The film is made up of many small moments like this that seem to express the whole of it. Human experience is only "halfway"---there is more to life than what we see or think we know. Something else lies under the surface. Antonioni explores this theme in all his films, most famously four years later in BLOW-UP. Here, the style of the film is so rarefied and so nearly abstract that it may take more than one viewing to appreciate it. Vittoria and Piero, together, realize that truly connecting, finding a meaning beyond the fleeting sexual one (which is yet another empty attempt to transcend) may be impossible. So Antonioni, in perhaps the most famous sequence, permanently removes the characters from the film. As if to emphasize the universality of his theme and the interchangeablility of human experience, we are shown a woman who closely resembles Vitti, but who passes anonymously from the frame as she did. The famous wordless sequence creates an uncanny, almost frightening sense of anticipation: we feel we are waiting for something to happen, for someone to arrive in this neighborhood of unfinished buildings, circulating city buses, and symmetrical crosswalks, but only a state of pure being seems to exist now. It's almost an Eastern way of looking at the world. The film leaves the viewer with a lot to contemplate and calls many back to see more in it than can be addressed in a brief review like this.
This new Criterion DVD of L'ECLISSE should not be overlooked by anyone interested in modern film. "
Antonioni's Brilliant Art in 24 Frames Per Second...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 03/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"L'Eclisse visually transcends into an artistic journey through 24 frames per second that displays numerous scenes in which the director Michelangelo Antonioni captures the moment. Each moment offers a unique experience that is passed on to the audience through the eyes of the characters or the audience's own perception. In either case, the visuals play a significant part in this cinematic experience, as it is the visuals that tell the story while dialogue merely adds a little flesh to the bones. Many of these shots that Antonioni provides to the audience could have been free standing photos, or paintings at art museums throughout the world. Thus, L'Eclisse presents a brilliant cinematic experience, as the visuals play with the audience's mind and emotions.
The opening scene begins with a shot of a lamp that illuminates a room while the audience only can see a small portion of the room. What the light from the lamp unveils from the darkness is a number of used books, pen, paper, a painting, and a white shirt elbow. The composition of this scene brings so many things to ponder, as the scene goes on for almost 10 seconds. The audience might experience notions such as wondering what kind of books are there, what kind of painting is in the background, or whose elbow it is that can be seen. However, the most important idea might be missed in this scene, which might be the visual metaphor for enlightenment that is provided by the light. The light brings out these questions from the darkness, as it almost wants to encourage the audience to continue to read into each scene that follows the opening shot, which slowly pans to the right unveiling the identity of person whose elbow has been.
The pan reveals a man, who remains silent for what seems to be a long moment, who is in deep thoughts. Beside the man, there is a woman in the room, who plays with a picture frame. This moment is also full of artistic expression, as it initially displays the woman's interest for what is in the frame while the camera later shows the same picture frame from an angled and opposite direction. Shooting the frame from two different directions while displaying what the woman could see in the frame suggests that the audience can only see a small portion of the truth, unless the audience can manipulate the angle of what is in the frame and see it from all angles. Combining this notion with the previous of enlightenment provides the idea that the audience can manipulate the truth with their mind.
Silence hangs in the air while the man and the woman continue to exist in the same room. Eventually one of the two break the silence, as the audience gets to know the man as Riccardo (Francisco Rabal) and the woman as Vittoria (Monica Vitti). Everything is not revealed at once to the audience, only fragments and pieces, which leaves the audience guessing. Based on the images and the short dialogues it is obvious that they are breaking up a long relationship and Vittoria is not happy with the circumstances. But the reason is left for the audience to contemplate, as they can watch Riccardo agonizingly trying to mend the relationship.
After the break up the film continues into a chaotic stock market where the audience can witness people's preoccupation making money. Even Vittoria's mother is too busy making, or saving money, as she tries to tell her that she has broken up with Riccardo. Furthermore, there is a powerful scene at the stock market where the stock traders are forced to stop their trading, as they hold a moment's silence in regards to an esteemed colleague that has died. During this moment of silence the phones continue to ring, and the ringing intensifies while the moment gets longer. It is also revealed to the audience that one-minute cost everyone a lot of money. This scene brings to mind the short time people have to live, and the importance of making the most of the time alive.
The story continues as a journey for the audience through Vittoria and people she meets. This journey consists of episodes such as Vittoria meeting two beautiful neighbors one late night, the chasing a dog, the making of a short daily flight, the crash of the stock market, a deadly car accident, and the rediscovery of love among other life adventures. Each and every adventure provides enlightening wisdom, as the story continues to deal with life. Antonioni's clever direction focuses on the small details in a moment, and simultaneously depicts a greater significance in the characters' existence. This is accomplished through great eye for details, as the story visually brings several different notions for the audience to ponder.
L'Eclisse encourages the audience to participate cerebrally through its visuals, which also illustrate the importance of good cinematography, mise-en-scene, and direction. The cast performs very well and does not convey too much information while leaving the audience in an artistic twilight where only thought can guide the audience on the right track. The beauty with Antonioni's direction is in the use of symbols and signs in a manner that provides a visual meaning to the audience. Through this visual meaning the audience can interpret what Antonioni attempts to convey through his tale, yet it leaves the audience with the freedom to make their own judgment depending how they manipulate the ideas that Antonioni provides through his visual representations on the silver screen."
Antonioni's Eclipse is a masterpiece!
Jesse Nagel | Bettendorf, IA United States | 07/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Michelangelo directed a trilogy of sorts in the 1960s, beginning with his breakthrough film L'Avventura, continuing with La Notte, and ending with my personal favorite, L'Eclisse (The Eclipse). All were preoccupied with the theme of alienation, and all featured more or less neurotic and disaffected performances from the striking actress Monica Vitti (as a blond in L'Avventura and L'Eclisse, and as a brunette in La Notte). L'Eclisse begins with the Vitti character's romantic breakup, and continues with her affair with a young stockbroker. The affair is destined for failure, however, as she ultimately finds it impossible to experience meaningful contact with other people. There are several notable sequences in the film - the dull fatigue of the opening breakup scene, raucous and frenetic scenes in the stock market, even Vitti and her friends dressing up and dancing as African natives! The most striking for me, however, is the final several minutes, in which the lovers have agreed to meet but neither shows up, and we see a series of deserted spots (mostly locales from earlier scenes) in a mounting crescendo of emptiness and apathetic horror. The stark and impersonal "modern" sixties architecture, headlines about nuclear terror, and a quietly eerie and horrific musical score combines to make this one of the most powerful sequences ever filmed. It shocks me to learn that when originally released in America the sequence was cut as extraneous!It's a shame that this masterpiece is currently out of print. There are copies floating around that are dubbed from British sources, and there are also some from an American release several years ago, which had generally very good picture and subtitle quality. I can only hope that someone, maybe Criterion, chooses to release L'Eclisse on DVD - I would give my right arm to get it!"
A masterpiece in both form and format
Eric Krupin | Salt Lake City, UT | 07/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's hard to imagine that many people reading this will need much persuasion that "L'Eclisse" is one of the masterpieces of world cinema. Although Antonioni's breakthrough film "L'Avventura" is usually advanced as his chef d'oeuvre, I think a strong case can be made that "L'Eclisse" not only demonstrates with a greater degree of virtuosity the alienated visual style that is his chief contribution to the art of film [certainly to the greatest degree of his black-and-white works, of which this was the magisterial conclusion], it is a more richly complex and nuanced development of his vision. The progression from "L'Avventura"'s Sandro accidentally-on-purpose ruining the drawing of a younger architect doing the creatively engaged work he no longer can to "L'Eclisse"'s stock trader ruined in a market crash adjourning to a cafe to doodle a picture of a butterfly on a napkin may seem a discouragingly small step - but in the magnified intensity of Antonioni's scrutiny of modern life, it is surprisingly hopeful.
Matching the commitment of Antonioni's work here is his legendary muse and collaboratrice Monica Vitti. The act of being-beautiful-on-film is a mysterious and - for all the critical ink spent on it - still an underappreciated one. But I wish to avoid giving the (entirely correct) impression that I'm just another of these bespectacled film geeks whose nearest approach to a passionate love affair was sitting in a dilapidated revival theater swooning over the radiance of Signorina Vitti's visage in the light of Gianni di Venanzo's luminous cinematography. So I'll confine myself to observing that although her showier turn as an extreme neurotic in Antonioni's following work "Il Deserto Rosso" is probably more often cited by defenders of her acting [and the charmingly goofy real-life Vitti seen in the outstanding supplemental material for this DVD makes it clear that these were performances - like most great actors of either sex, she is a creature of instinct rather than intellect], I would claim the exquisitely sensitive work she does here is the one Vitti portrayal to see if (for some unfathomable reason) you were going to see only one.
Speaking of the supplemental material, it sets a new high-water mark even by Criterion's already industry-leading standards. The hour-long Italian documentary on Antonioni - "The Eye That Changed Cinema" - not only contains archival footage of intense interest to students of the director [i.e. an acceptance speech with a touching tribute to the support Vitti provided him], it gave me an entirely new perspective on the English-language works that were soon to come. [So much so that I've had to write new Amazon reviews of them - which I hope will contribute more than the cursory ones I rattled off four years ago.] And although Criterion isn't publicizing the image restoration work they did here the way they did for their "L'Avventura" DVD [no separate featurette on it, for example], it will be my pleasure to pick up the slack. This is the sharpest and most brilliant print of the work that could possibly be imagined - all the more dramatic arriving after the years of crude VHS tapes.
Molto grazie, Criterion."
A master film from a master filmmaker
Andre Ali Seewood | Detroit, MI USA | 03/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Author Sam Rohdie wrote in a wonderful book on Antonioni," Much of the drama of Antonioni's films occur here in the dead times, outside of the narrative, when everything is done, when there is silence, or emptiness as if in these spaces not only does the film occur, there precisely where 'things' are eclipsed, but a whole new cinema begins to take shape." There could be no better introduction to this daring and dynamic work. L'Eclisse is a film that opens with nearly two minutes of dramatic silence between a woman and her lover who have been arguing all night. It is in this silence that Antonioni explores a new cinema, recording reflections against surfaces, the artificial wind of a fan, the drone of its motor, the prison-like claustrophobia of a doomed love affair in hot and stuffy room. And as if this isn't enough, Vittoria (Monica Vitti) runs into the promising but ultimately dispassionate arms of Piero (Alain Delon)a stockbroker. These two beautiful people occupy a world without love, an alien and alienating landscape of promises unfullfilled. A world filled with the loud and passionate screams of stockbrokers racing to make their next transaction and humans who stuggle desperately to communicate the most simple emotion. Antonioni and his collaborator, Tonino Guerra were capturing a new and powerful realism in this film by capturing the effect, just after the cause. In doing this, they opened up a new perspective on realism in the cinema that has only been matched by Andrei Tarkovsky in SOLARIS and MIRROR. But it is the breathtaking finale of the film, unforgettable in its cinematography and dramatic statement that will have you returning the L'Eclisse, again and again."