The Film (5/5)
In the book length interview about his career Scorsese on Scorsese, the director Martin Scorsese describes the period where he went to film school in 1963 where students were either for La Dolce Vita or for L'avventura. He was squarely in the camp for L'avventura as the film was slower, and thus he felt more important. So it appears in film schools throughout the early 1960's this was the Beatles vs. Rolling Stones debate of Italian cinema. I will be forthright in saying I adore both films, but if to select one to go on a desert island (like the one in L'avventura) with me the Fellini would be the way I go.
The late 50's and early 1960's were a time in change throughout international cinema. We would have the French New Wave usher in new styles that are still advocated for today. In Italy we had the director's of the former neo-realist movement still working, and evolving creating new, beautiful, and insightful films. Antonioni's first film was not L'avventura, but it might as well have been as it seemed to kickstart his career on the international stage. He made been making feature films since the early 50's, and while some of them were truly great. This would be the director's first true masterpiece.
The first thing to mention about L'avventura is that the story unfolds at a leisurely pace that is less about story and more about events and their effects on the lives and emotions of the characters. The film begins with a group of affluent friends going for a cruise on a yacht. These friends included Anna(Lea Massari) her boyfriend Sandro(Gabrielle Ferzetti), and Anna's best friend Claudia (Monica Vitti). The first hour of the film depicts the events of the cruise, and their arrival on an island. Then Anna disappears, no explanation is given. Sandro and Claudia remain on the island to investigate the disappearance for an evening. It is then the film changes direction from the prologue. We still have a search going on for Anna, but this begins to fade into the background as Sandro and Claudia begin to fall in love amidst the fallout of Anna's disappearance. I felt watching this that the film had a significant influence on Peter Weir's later Picnic at Hanging Rock. As the event that drives the film, Anna’s disappearance although, it seems to slowly fade into the background, never feels less than an omnipresent event that colors the emotions and actions of Sandro and Claudia, who now a couple must deal with the guilt of the circumstances that brought them together, and also that sense of unknowing that the disappearance left in their lives.
Antonioni shot the film in a gorgeous crisp black and white in collaboration with cinematographer Aldo Scavarda who also shot Bertolucci's New Wave inspired Before the Revolution (Please Criterion???). The film's style is a sort of minimal sparseness that Antonioni would develop throughout the remainder of his career. This allows the viewers to use the frame as a reference point for the characters emotional state (or lack thereof). The film runs 2.5 hours long, but it never feels as such, and it a beautiful compelling cinematic experience.
L'avventura is presented by Criterion in a MPEG-4 AVC encoded 1:85:1 transfer that preserves the films original aspect ratio. The transfer itself is absolutely gorgeous. It has excellent contrast, exquisite fine detail, and a healthy natural level of film grain present throughout.
The audio is presented in a LPCM 1.0 mono track in Italian. The track is absolutely a perfect complement to the restored video portion with sound and dialogue coming through nice and clearly. I did not detect any issues with the audio during my listen.
Criterion have put together a stunning array of extra for their Blu-ray release of L'avventura. We have a commentary by film historian Gene Youngblood. We also have a 3 part analysis of the film by director Olivier Assayas (Carlos, also a CC release). We have Jack Nicholson reading essays by Antonioni, a documentary by Gianfranco Mingozzi that runs 59 minutes and is biographical in nature. The set concludes with a trailer and a booklet with essay.
one of Antonioni's first masterpieces comes to Criterion Blu-ray with stunning A/V and a wonderful slate of extras. There's nothing I can conclude with other than this release is an absolute treat, and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.