Richard Harris and Monica Vitti star in writer/director Michelangelo Antonioni's masterpiece. An alienated Italian wife searches for meaning in the industrial lunar landscape of Northern Italy, to no avail. Highly acclaime... more »d as a masterpiece of visual form and the winner of the International Critics Award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival in 1964.« less
Adrian Heathcote | Sydney,, N.S.W Australia | 01/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The usual cliche about Antonioni films is that they are studies of bored and alienated people, and are themselves vague and uninteresting. This line was started by Pauline Kael and is repeated by Leonard Maltin above, with not a second thought. But it is utterly wrong, and never more so than in the case of Red Desert. The main character Giuliana (Monica Vitti) is not bored - she is if anything too sensitively engaged with the world. She suffers from it as an artist suffers, feeling it in every part of her. (Her point of view is represented by Antonioni's careful abstract compositions, his beautiful use of colour.) But she also feels the lack of her husband's and son's love and it is this that drives her into an to attraction to Corrado (Richard Harris). He in turn is attracted to her and pretends to a closeness that he doesn't fully feel. The dynamics of this seduction are beautifully observed and movingly real.But it is the character of Giuliana that drives the film. She seems to possess an integrity in her suffering that sets her apart. Antonioni seems to be searching her soul as he allows the camera to dwell on her expressions of hurt and desperation (as Godard did with Anna Karina). And Monica Vitti is so beautiful that it is ultimately painful to watch her. But as for the standard opinion - the only people who could be bored by this film are those who are bored with feeling itself. This is a masterpiece of observed sensitivity - a study of the heart's war on consciousness. It must be seen."
Breathtaking Antonioni agoraphobia!
Miko | Jersey City, NJ United States | 08/21/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"5 stars to the film itself! Here's a painful study of a woman's descent to lunacy amidst a desolate, uncaring and eventually foreboding backdrop of industrial waste. The character study is not unlike claustrophobic Polanski's Repulsion but dwells on Vitti's being consumed by her external surroundings as opposed to Deneuve's intensive plunge to schizophrenia. The pace and landscape is virtual Antonioni so it may not appeal to viewers who are not familiar with the director's works. One of his greatest works (L'Avventura remains his best to me). The only problem is the DVD transfer. I've seen the VHS and it has a consistent hue of orange. The DVD, although sharper and clearer, fluctuates in hues from blues in medium shots to reds and oranges in long shots. For a film that essentially deals with color (it was Antonioni's first color feature), the transfer was rather clumsy and careless. The sound is average but leaves a lot of room for improvement. Why didn't Criterion handle the transfer of this gorgeous film?"
You should own this beautiful film
J. Steffen | 10/04/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"(rev. 10/4/03) I don't care if its the orange-tinted DVD copy, or whatever, you have to own at least one copy of this film. It is so very beautiful, and bears repeated viewings. I've seen it forty times, and this is a conservative estimate.
(While you're at it, be sure to see - and own, if your prehensile to the direction in which I hint - Antonioni/Wenders effort, BEYOND THE CLOUDS, a film I saw in a battered print in an art house, after it had made the rounds for a couple of years - and was still able to conclude to an interested friend, that CLOUDS was also one of the most beautiful, intelligent films I had ever seen.)
It doesn't even matter that you can't "understand" it (watch anything enough times, and you'll start to "understand" it.) Many people who can't fully "understand" (whatever that word really means) this film, like myself, watch it repeatedly.
Which, by the way, is one of the keys to understanding Antonioni: view his films at least a half-dozen times a piece, before rushing to any mad, espresso-inspired conclusions. Let them wash over you in various states and shades of receptivity. They are long meditations as much as they are films. Examine them for their dimensions of art, entertainment, depths of all sorts, and for the relationships of these dimensions to each other. Quite the mind-training, profitable exercise, I can assure. No extra charge for the amount of sensibility deepening they can cause in you, nor the firmness of mind they can challenge and foster in you, if you watch them right.
I don't understand the complaints of 'washout' colors in this film. Viewed on decent equipment, it should look great. To me, watching this film just for its sheer aesthetics, can be like dying and going to heaven. However, to each his own. . .
Perhaps the beauty of 'Il Desserto Rosso' IS of the stark, minimalist 60s variety. No matter. With the way the director has framed -- and paced -- the shots in RED DESERT, even if the film wasn't in color, it would still be very beautiful.
Which doesnt mean this film isnt overwhelming and disturbing, as much of Antonioni's work is. Don't come to Antonioni to use him as a tool to entertain and distract(though he can do that also.)
If it helps, Antonioni may mean different things to each viewer. This is perhaps for the best. As some say of certain aspects of poetry, they cannot be taught: they are best discovered on one's own.
For better understanding of this film, see Cassavete's WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE, and compare.
I cannot say enough about the inherent intelligence of this film. Every scene, the nature of Antonioni's pacing, the length with which he lingers on a shot, the sort of script he uses, and the way he has his actors speak their lines -- bespeaks a kind of maturity and intelligence that is a credit to the director, and a flattery to the viewer.
RED DESERT is, in its own way, a rivetting breath of fresh air. It is a distinct clearing of the senses, to experience a beautiful, mature, intelligent film that treats viewers as though they were grown-ups complete with fully-functioning brains.
One way to appreciate/perspect the value of this film, is to consider that it was made just two years after Antonioni's better-known black and white film L'AVVENTURA was declared one of the 'Top Ten Films of All Time' in the famous 'Sight and Sound' film magazines' critics poll.
I have already implied how privileged and gratified one ought to feel at being presented the gift of Antonioni's world of color (he uses Goethe's theory of color, by the way.)
Go ahead. Rent this film. You'll then know what I mean. And you will want to OWN a copy. You'll see it's worth the price for the chance to always have this film around just to relish its sheer beauty and color at intervals. I wish everyone the rare cinematic pleasure this film has afforded me.
It is sad to reflect that many otherwise intelligent people, only know Antonioni (when they know him at all) through his BLOW-UP (1966.) Failure to familiarize oneself with his early 60s work ( aka the Antonioni tetralogy, if you include RED DESERT)leaves one not only shortchanged in one's capacity to appreciate BLOW-UP. It robs one also of one of the most significant, mind-and capacity-improving cultural experiences one could have, at this stage of the game.
(HINT: I own two different VHS prints of this beautiful masterpiece. Sense the dedication: its called, Practice What You Preach.)"
A painter's movie on the isolation of women
Miko | 08/14/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I sat through this film twice when it first came out in the1960's. I have seen it many times over the years. The painterly imagesare rich, lonely, and seductive. Antonioni is a painter making film. The plot is secondary. Monica Vitti is an ancient goddess trapped in the dead, souless corporate world. Being a trophy wife is making her crazy. Do the men we love ever really love us? Is modern man trapped in sterile scientific thinking and cut off from the passion of the archaic world? I love this beautiful movie. I'm so happy it's being released."
Save your money, track down the BFI DVD of this film.
J. Steffen | Decatur, GA USA | 02/05/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you have a multi-region player, you should order the British Film Institute DVD of RED DESERT/IL DESERTO ROSSO film from England. It's transferred from the original negative and has much more faithful color than the unrestored, somewhat faded materials used for the now out-of-print Image Entertainment edition that currently goes for high prices. Don't get me wrong, the Image Entertainment edition isn't that bad, but it pales next to the BFI. The quality of the color is critical for this particular film.
The BFI has also released a Blu-ray of the same transfer, and I hear it's stunning. But it's region "B," and all-region Blu-ray players are extremely difficult to come by.
Until a company like Criterion releases a new transfer of THE RED DESERT in the U.S., the imported BFI DVD is your best option."