Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” is a film you have a
lifelong relationship with. In his Great Movies review of the film, Roger Ebert
wrote that it took him decades of watching and rewatching it to “realize how
much clarity and passion Antonioni brought to the film’s silent cry of
This is why it’s so important to see the new 35mm
restoration of “L’Avventura,” kicking off its bi-coastal run on July 12 at New
York’s Film Forum and LA’s Cinefamily. If you’ve already seen the film, you
will most likely see it again at some point, and if you’ve never seen it, you
will probably see it several times in your lifetime once you do. And the
chances to watch it or any movie on film are — as we know — increasingly few
and far between.
The film was booed upon its premiere at Cannes in 1960. But
then it won the festival’s Jury Prize, became an international box office
success and was selected by Pauline Kael as the best film of the year. Over the
course of a luxurious 143 minutes, the impossibly lovely Monica Vitti loses her
best friend while on a boating day trip — the woman seemingly disappears among
the jutting rocks of a small island — begins an affair with her missing
friend’s boyfriend, and realizes how quickly one can become distracted and
forget about important things.
The characters in the film are rich, bored and existentially
hollow. “L’Avventura” suggests nothing will wake them from their emptiness, though
Vitti’s character agonizes in vain over this bleak truth throughout the film’s
episodic second act.
The film was Antonioni and Vitti’s first together,
beginning a director-muse collaboration that would go on to include such
thematically resonant entries as “La Notte,” “L’Eclisse” and “Red Desert.” Antonioni’s
camera loves Vitti (every camera
loves Vitti), but is careful to give the surrounding landscapes more depth and
vitality than any of the living beings on screen. The Aeolian island of the
film’s first sixty minutes is so hauntingly ageless — so present — it
threatens to overshadow the rest of the picture.
I’ve now seen “L’Avventura” twice — the second being this
restoration — and still find my stamina tested by its last hour. But apparently
I’m in good company, in needing time to understand the film’s strange, ghostly
journey. The anti-adventure where nothing and everything happens.
Now, thanks to these pristine prints by Janus Films,
moviegoers can add a new chapter (filled with awe? perplexity? malaise? mesmerism?)
to their experience of this classic masterwork.
This is the first
domestic 35mm of “L’Avventura” in over a decade; the prints were struck from a