Italian Film Director Pantheon:
Fellini Rossellini Pasolini
Moretti Visconti De Sica
Michelangelo Antonioni was born on 29th September 1912 in Ferrara, a small provincial capital in north-east Italy. He studied at the University of Bologna, beginning as a student of classics, but finishing a degree in economics. After graduation, Antonioni gravitated towards theater and the arts. He began writing film reviews for a local newspaper, which were often anything but flattering. In 1939, Antonioni moved to Rome, and started working for Cinema the official fascist film magazine, run by Mussolini’s son. He was fired shortly afterwards over a political dispute.
In 1940, Antonioni studied at the Centro Sperimentale and went on to work with directors like Roberto Rossellini and Enrico Fulchignoni. In 1943, he traveled to France to work with Marcel Carne on Les Visiteurs du Soir. He returned to Italy before the end of the war and between 1944-1948 made several documentaries, which show the developmental stages of his unique, minimalist style.
His earlier features were not well received, perhaps because they were well ahead of their time and of a style not fully developed. In Le Amíche, Antonioni approaches the story of a woman who tries to convince her lover to murder her husband, from the spiritual perspective, as opposed to a plot driven one.
Antonioni made his break into international cinema with his 1960 feature film, l’Avventura. This film nearly caused a riot at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960, but won the Grande Prize, despite this. I wish I could recommend this film to everyone, but to do so would be potentially cruel. The film moves at an incredibly slow pace, seems to have little to no plot, what plot it does contain simply dissolves at the end with no conclusion. For those interested in film as an art form, however, and for students of film, this movie is a masterpiece. Antonioni developed a very unique method of juxtaposing actors and landscape that give his movies a haunting reality. In watching l’avventura, one feels that the landscape is perhaps the most important character, while the actors simply move over it, fleetingly and unsure.
This film, which propelled Monica Vitti to international stardom, set a new standard in film making and can indeed by considered revolutionary. Like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, l’avventura is a landmark of cinematic history. Lastly, l’avventura is the first part of the alienation trilogy. The other two films of this trilogy The Eclipse (1962) and La Notte (1961) followed closely after the first and further expanded Antonioni’s style.
I have included an essay on the alienation trilogy here
In 1966, Antonioni directed Blow Up, a film starring David Hemmings, about a photographer who accidentally photographs a murder. It is strange that this film should have been his most commercial success since it is certainly one of his most incomprehensible. It’s success, however, brought him to America where he directed Zabriski Point, his only feature in this country. A few years later he directed Jack Nicholson in The Passenger, which was shot in Northern Africa. Shortly thereafter his career came to an abrupt end when a bad review of one of his films caused its withdrawal from distribution.
Antonioni suffered from a stroke in 1985, but returned to film making in 1995 with a feature co-directed by Wim Wenders. He has also published a book That Bowling Alley on the Tiber and a painting collection The Enchanted Mountain.
Sources: Yahoo! Biography, memories of film class