When originally shown at the Cannes Film Festival it was booed by some critics, but after a second screening, it took the Grand Jury Prize and within two years in the 1962 Sight & Sound poll came 2nd (to Citizen Kane) as the greatest film ever made, difficult to think of a two year old film having such an impact now.
It is the story of Claudia (Monica Vitti) and Anna who with Anna’a lover, Sondro (Gabriele Ferzetti , who would go on to appear in “Once Upon A Time In The West” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”) go to visit an island off the coast of Sicily, whilst they are there, Anna disappears. They search everywhere for her, but with no trace and then Claudia and Sondro begin a relationship and forget all about Anna.
This film has often been criticized for its’ slow pacing and lack of plot, this is a problem that has blighted Antonioni’s entire career, but as this was considered Italy’s golden age of cinema, money was still given to him, it is only when he reached America and made the awful (but successful) “Zabriskie Point” that the money started to dry up. He had started as a documentary film maker in the forties and moved into features during the 50s, but it was this film that made him and Vitti a star.
He then continued his trilogy with “La Notte” and “L’Eclisse” followed by “The Red Desert” all with Vitti, he moved to Britain and made his most famous film with David Hemmings “Blow up”.
I often find his films dated and dare I say it boring, but “L’Avventura” has an entrancing quality to it that I just can’t resist. His long shots in which nothing happens only make you want to look further into it, the wonderful Italian landscapes helps. He lingers on the faces of people in a way that Leone would have floated round them with a pounding Morricone score, Antonioni just lets the camera sit there.
In a way I was surprised that Derek Malcolm chose “The Passenger” (with Jack Nicholson fresh from “Chinatown”), when I did see this film, it is OK, but nothing happens and I like the pace in “L’Avventura” , but not in anything else.
You do have to stay with it and it will require repeated viewings, but that is what is like about it, it just keeps giving like Hitchcock’s “Vertigo”
Antonioni died the same day as Ingmar Bergman in 2007
Premiere 15/05/1960, Cannes Film Festival
Italian Release 29/06/1960
DF Viewing 19/01/1997 BBC-2