Antonioni, Michelangelo 1912–2007
Antonioni, Michelangelo 1912–2007
See index for CA sketch: Born September 29, 1912, in Ferrara, Italy; died July 31, 2007, in Rome, Italy. Film director and screenwriter. As a filmmaker, Antonioni has been called the greatest artistic stylist of all time. It was not always so. When L'Avventura premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960, people booed, hissed, and walked out of the theater. The movie incorporated many elements that would come to be recognized as Antonioni's trademarks: a story line that meanders at its own pace and without apparent objective; periods of silence and agonizing pauses; cinematography that sometimes seems to supersede plot and character. A frequent subject of his earlier films, in particular, is the aimlessness, boredom, spiritual emptiness, and despair that he witnessed among the Italian privileged classes after World War II, and every element of his films embodies that lack of personal direction. L'Avventura is the story of a young woman who disappears on a yachting trip, or the story of her lover and best friend and their search for her, or simply the story of the lover and the friend. There is no distinct beginning or end, no resolution to the mystery. A similar description could be applied to Antonioni's most popular movie, Blow-Up (1966), in which a young fashion photographer becomes obsessed with investigating a murder that may or may not have happened. One of Antonioni's American successes was The Passenger, a 1975 thriller starring Jack Nicholson as a broadcast journalist who ends up in Africa, assuming the identity of a dead gun-runner for reasons that are never explained, and whose choice ultimately spells his doom. Antonioni has been called a perfectionist, whose pensive pre-shoot meditations and occasional outbursts of temper kept his actors on edge as much as his directorial techniques kept audiences and critics off balance. He acquired much of his training in the early 1940s at the prestigious Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, where he worked with Roberto Rossellini and other major figures in the Italian film industry. By the time that L'Avventura appeared at Cannes, he had made several documentaries and written screenplays for other directors such as Federico Fellini. Antonioni directed at least a dozen feature films in his career, though not all of them were widely distributed throughout the United States. In 1985 he suffered a stroke that left him speechless and hampered his career, but he was never able to abandon his muse altogether. Antonioni filmed Beyond the Clouds in 1995 with hand gestures, line drawings, and the assistance of others who could interpret his wishes. In the same year he received an honorary Academy Award for career achievement.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Antonioni, Michelangelo, That Bowling Alley on the Tiber: Tales of a Director, translated by William Arrowsmith, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1986.
Antonioni, Michelangelo, The Architecture of Vision: Writings and Interviews on Cinema, edited by Marga Cottino-Jones, Marsilio Publishers (St. Paul, MN), 1996.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 144, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 2001.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 2: Directors, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Chicago Tribune, August 1, 2007, sec. 2, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2007, p. B6.
New York Times, August 1, 2007, pp. A1, A16.
Times (London, England), August 1, 2007, p. 53.