So it turns out that between L’Eclisse and L’Avventura I have watched the first and last films of a loose trilogy of films by Michelangelo Antonioni. The middle film (La Notte) is also on the 1001 film list. I guess that since this is a loose trilogy my watching these films out of order won’t matter too much, but I won’t know until I get to that film in 12-18 months.
Anyway, enough pride wound licking.
L’Eclisse is the fourth out of six Michelangelo Antonioni films that I have seen for the 1001 list (others being L’Avventura, Il Deserto Rosso and Blow-Up) and the third of them I have seen starring Monica Vitti. As a muse I cannot fault Vitti’s work with Antonioni and I think this could be the best I have seen her – or at least this is her at her most sensual.
I’m not entire sure whether going through the plot of L’Eclisse would help to properly talk about it. It’s a film that is very much steeped in an atmosphere of ennui (which is kicked off by Vitti’s character breaking up with her fiance) and is able to generate a number of interesting contrasts.
For many people there is the elephant in the room (literally, if you consider that tacky side table) of the racist/colonialist scene as Vittoria (Vitti) visits a friend of hers. Some people are so turned off by this scene that they deride Antonioni for its inclusion… and I would normally feel the same if it wasn’t for how it fit into the rest of the film.
Firstly, this friend (who dances in a form of black face and talks about native Kenyans as being monkeys who have recently lost their tails) is chastised openly for her behaviour. It’s not done by Vittoria, but by another friend of hers. Similarly everything about this apartment is tacky, so I would argue that this is more of a send up than anything.
Similarly, this scene where she calls native Kenyans savage is sandwiched between two scenes in a stock exchange. The way that Antonioni shoots these well-to-do white people snarling and yelling serves as an amazing contrast to her comments. For all the education and the money these are people who are still full of greed and viciousness. So yes, that makes for an interesting contrast.
Talking of contrasts, I need to speak a little about the final 7-8 minutes. The background to this scene is that our two characters (Vitti and Alain Delon) have just spent some passionate time together and made plans to meet each other later. We then just spend time watching various people going about their general business in between shots of the rather stark facist architecture and, for some reason, some ants scurrying up a tree.
The thing is… they don’t meet again. It’s a weird ending as you feel both like this was the perfect conclusion (as they never really found a way to communicate) and also a sad conclusion (as they both need happiness). So yes, between the ants and the lack of meeting this was an interesting ending to an interesting film.
I finish this with a general word about my continued crush on 1960s Alain Delon. If possible he may be more attractive here as the prickly stockbroker than in either The Leopard or Le Samouraï. Hopefully I haven’t used up all the Delon films as that would be a shame.