Daily Archives: November 4, 2018

Red Desert

From the Chicago Reader (October 5, 1990). — J.R.

Michelangelo Antonioni’s first feature in color (1964) remains a watermark for using colors creatively, expressionistically, and beautifully; to get the precise hues he wanted, Antonioni had entire fields painted. A newly struck and restored print of the film makes clear why audiences were so excited a quarter of a century ago by his innovations, which include not only expressive uses of color for moods and subtle thematic coding but striking uses of editing as well. This film comes at the tail end of his most fertile period, immediately after his remarkable trilogy consisting of L’avventura, La notte, and L’eclisse; Red Desert may not be quite as good as the first and last of these, but the ecological concerns of this film look a lot more prescient today than they did at the time. Monica Vitti plays an extreme neurotic married to industrialist Richard Harris, and Antonioni does eerie, memorable work with the industrial shapes and colors that surround her, which are shown alternately as threatening and beautiful; she walks through a science fiction lunar landscape spotted with structures that are both disorienting and full of possibilities. Like any self-respecting Antonioni heroine, she’s looking for love and meaning — more specifically, for ways of adjusting to new forms of life — and mainly finding sex.… Read more »

The Quiet Life: The Locarno Film Festival

From Filmmaker, Fall 1993 (vol. 2, #1). – J.R.


One reason why quieter, less obviously trendy North American festivals like those in Denver, Honolulu, and Vancouver attract me more as a critic than the hit-making events held in Sundance and Telluride is that they offer a genuine alternative to the feeding frenzies that accompany most current movie launchings — an atmosphere conducive to looking at movies without the usual starstruck distractions . By the same token, one advantage of Locarno over bigger and better publicized competitive European festivals like Cannes, Berlin and Venice is that it takes place in a more relaxed ambience, a space to think in.

Held in a lakeside resort town in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland in early August, where nightly outdoor screenings in the Grand Piazza for up to 7,000 spectators are the main public events, the festival also boasts exhaustive retrospectives, a Critics Week devoted to documentaries, an annual assortment of films about film, and many other sidebars and special events. One of the many specialty items this year was a series of clever, elaborate commercials for Bris Soap made by Ingmar Bergman in the early 50s.… Read more »

Intimate Passions: Rotterdam 1992

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