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CRITERION

MOVIE INFO
Director:
Michelangleo Antonioni
Cast:
Gabriele Ferzetti, Monica Vitti, Lea Massari, Dominique Blanchar, Renzo Ricci
Screenplay:
Michelangelo Antonioni and Elio Bartolini and Tonino Guerra


MPAA:
Rated NR

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
Italian LPCM Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 11/25/2014

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Film Critic Gene Youngblood
• “Antonioni: Documents and Testimonials” Documentary
• “Jack Nicholson Reads Essays By Antonioni”
• “Olivier Assayas on L’Avventura
• Trailer
• Booklet


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RELATED REVIEWS


L'Avventura: Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray] (1960)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 10, 2014)

As I noted in my review of 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the slow pace of that film can really throw off viewers, and I was among those who needed repeated screenings of it to really grasp its point. Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 flick L’Avventura seems to fall into the same category. While that may bode well for future viewings of the movie, it meant that my initial examination of the piece was a rough ride.

In L’Avventura - which can be translated as either “The Adventure” or “The Fling” according to the liner notes - the story follows some bored, idle rich folks. Anna (Lea Massari) plans to reunite with her boyfriend Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) and go on a boat escapade with some friends, including Claudia (Monica Vitti). Although Anna hasn’t seen Sandro for months, she feels no joy about their reunification, and she seems reluctant to even bother with the trip.

Nonetheless, she does take the journey, and all seems fine for a while. However, about a third of the way through the movie, Anna disappears without explanation. For the remainder of the picture, the others - mainly Sandro and Claudia - attempt to locate her.

Well, they sort of try to find her. Frankly, their efforts quickly become half-hearted, and the two cultivate a romance of their own. Anna’s presence hangs over this affair, but it doesn’t stop it, as the pair continue to go through some motions in their search but they really don’t seem to care.

Like I stated at the start of this review, I’d never seen L’Avventura before I got the 2001 DVD, and I knew little about it prior to that screening. This seems to be the kind of film that needs repeated viewings to become more compelling.

Unfortunately, I was so bored throughout the movie that I felt little interest in attempting further explorations of it and hadn’t seen it between 2001 and the release of this 2014 Blu-ray. I can’t say the intervening years have done much to change my impression of the film. While L’Avventura offers some interesting techniques, the story lacks much to interest the viewer.

Granted, that was part of director Michelangelo Antonioni’s point. He was a pioneer of the “neorealist” style of filmmaking, one that attempted to remove much of the artificially theatrical elements of movies.

Unlike traditional flicks that are story-oriented and consistently work toward a certain end, this style of film works at a more leisurely pace, and it doesn’t always bother to offer material that serves the plot. Things happen and they don’t always - or even usually - have any form of deeper meaning.

I’m all for this kind of style, as I think it’s an interesting way to approach movies. Too many films telegraph their intentions and meanings too harshly, and it’s good to see some that make things more vague.

This means I really like the lack of consistent narrative focus found in L’Avventura and the fact it doesn’t heavily emphasize certain events. I admire films that leave things up to the viewer to a large degree, and that’s definitely the case here.

However, I think that if this kind of movie will work best, it really needs to have a strong story onto which it can hang its hat. If we’re to watch something that doesn’t attempt to badger us with its plot, then the underlying tale needs to be clear enough so that we can ignore it. This may seem odd, and perhaps I’m not explaining myself well, but I feel that if the director wants to let a story veer off on its own path, then the framework that underlies the tale needs to be sturdy.

I don’t think that’s the case with L’Avventura. As a mystery, it lacks suspense or involvement. As a character piece, it fails to provide great depth or insight.

According to the liner notes on the 2001 DVD, “Antonioni’s penetrating study of the idle upper class offers stinging observations on spiritual isolation and the many meanings of love”. Umm… okay. Frankly, I think it delivers an exercise in the obvious.

We’re supposed to be surprised when we learn that the idle rich are empty and shallow? That seems to be the movie’s main point, but if that’s the best it can do, then I’m not sure why it bothers. It’s not exactly a shock to learn that people whose lives revolve around parties and frivolity aren’t exactly deep.

The prevailing Italian filmmaking techniques of the era don’t help. Virtually all the audio of L’Avventura got recreated later, so this means neither dialogue nor effects came from the shoot. This becomes a distraction, especially in terms of the speech. The lines sound so canned and phony that they don’t integrate well with the action – and in a movie that strives for realism, the lack of natural dialogue creates a deficit.

L’Avventura nicely communicates the emptiness of the characters’ lives, as it lets us experience this firsthand. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make for the world’s most compelling film.

Frankly, I think it works better as a cinematic experiment than as an engrossing piece of work. L’Avventura still inspires heaps of praise, and people seem to feel that it brings us a rich, incisive work. I continue to disagree, as I think the points made by the characterizations seem so obvious that they provide nothing new. While L’Avventura makes an admirable attempt to broaden cinematic horizons, the result seem slow and meandering.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

L’Avventura appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a high-quality presentation.

Sharpness consistently seemed strong throughout the movie. A few wider shots displayed a smidgen of softness, but not in a way that created any distractions. Instead, the film usually looked detailed and concise. I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent.

No issues with digital noise reduction occurred, as the movie presented a natural layer of grain. Print flaws also failed to cause concerns. I witnessed a couple of small specks but nothing notable.

Black levels looked deep and rich throughout L’Avventura, as the movie presented a rich silver image that displayed excellent contrast. Shadow detail also appeared clear and appropriately opaque with no signs of excessive thickness. Across the board, the Blu-ray presented the film in a very satisfying manner.

The movie’s LPCM monaural soundtrack wasn’t quite as pleasing, but it seemed to be decent for its era. Like other Italian films of the era, all dialogue was looped, and this created occasional lip-synch issues. The lines could also seem artificial and not especially natural. Those issues became inevitable, though, and overall clarity of the dialogue was acceptable.

Effects came across as acceptably clean and realistic. Also recorded after the original shoot, they remained a fairly subdued aspect of the mix, and they could be somewhat flat, but as a whole, they sounded fine for the era.

Music was even less involving, as the film’s score didn’t make an appearance until about half an hour into L’Avventura. After that, the score only popped up on a few occasions; apparently Antonioni disliked movie music and used it only sporadically in some of his films. In any case, the score sounded a bit strident and thin, but it seemed to be reasonably clear. This ended up as a passable soundtrack for a movie from 1960.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the of the 2001 DVD? Audio showed slightly more heft, but not much, as there wasn’t much that could be done with the dated source. Visuals offered more obvious improvements, though, as the Blu-ray looked cleaner and tighter. The new version provided a substantial upgrade in terms of image.

The Blu-ray repeats the extras from the earlier Criterion DVD, and we start with an audio commentary from film historian Gene Youngblood. Recorded in 1989, Youngblood was a long-time fan of the film, and his affection clearly comes through during this fairly interesting piece.

Youngblood’s remarks generally split between interpretation of L’Avventura and discussion of the production and its participants. As such, I thought it was a generally compelling affair. Youngblood clearly adores L’Avventura, and his affection for the film comes through during this track. As one who feels much less positively about it, I appreciated his discussion of its many nuances. This didn’t make me wild about the movie, but it helped me get a better grasp on the film’s positive aspects.

Created in 1966 by the Film Board of Canada, Antonioni: Documents and Testimonialsgoes for 58-minutes, 15 seconds and was the “first documentary about Antonioni to receive his approval”. Directed by Gianfranco Mingozzi, the show offers French narration with Italian dialogue from its subjects.

Overall, I thought this was a decent program, though it didn’t really captivate me. It follows Antonioni’s career chronologically and it involves lots of collaborators. We learn some nice tidbits about the director’s life and work - at least through the mid-Sixties, which means we don’t hear about 1966’s Blowup, arguably his most famous film - and get a decent overall summary.

I particularly enjoyed the shots from movie sets, as this “behind the scenes” material offered a nice look at the director’s style. Ultimately, the program was a little too cold and distant to become really compelling, but it was still a generally watchable and interesting piece.

Next is a cool addition from a huge star. Jack Nicholson Reads Essays By Antonioni offers exactly what it states. As noted on the disc, Nicholson reads “part of the publicity materials for L’Avventura”. He also discusses his own experiences with the director. There are three sections: “L’Avventura: A Moral Adventure” (9:46); “Reflections On the Film Actor” (6:10); and “Working With Antonioni (5:18)”.

Antonioni appears to be a filmmaker who really doesn’t like to discuss his work, but he added some good details in these notes. They don’t make the movie or his attitudes totally clear, but they provide some solid insight. However, Nicholson’s remembrances were easily the best parts of this package. His frank, homey style works well, and he provides some fun and insightful notes about his experiences.

In addition to the film’s original theatrical trailer, we find a new addition to the Blu-ray: Olivier Assayas on L’Avventura. In this 2004 piece, filmmaker Assayas devotes 26 minutes, 49 seconds to analysis of the film and its cinematic importance. This follows in the same vein as much of the commentary, and it offers another useful perspective on the movie.

Lastly, a booklet includes a few different text pieces. We get a short essay by film professor Geoffrey Nowell-Smith that brings some interpretation to the table. It doesn’t replace the more extensive discussions in the commentary and in Assayas’ chat, but it makes for a minor complement. More interesting is the “Cannes Statement” by Antonioni. This offers a good discussion of his movie’s themes and his thoughts, all prepared at the time of the flick’s premiere.

Speaking of which, we also find “An Open Letter”. Following the film’s legendarily negative reception at Cannes, some movie partisans sent out a statement of support for Antonioni. It’s a brief piece that praises the director and comes signed by many prominent in the industry at the time.

My thoughts about L’Avventura don’t seem to be nearly as negative as the ones displayed by the Cannes crowd. Nonetheless, I feel the film delivers an interesting experiment but it ultimately seems cold and fairly pointless as anything more than a self-conscious attempt to subvert standard narrative methods. The Blu-ray brings us excellent picture as well as acceptable audio and a useful selection of bonus materials. Whether or not I enjoy the film, I think the Blu-ray brings us a strong rendition of it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main