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The Criterion Collection presents
L'Eclisse (1962)

"Why do we ask so many questions? Two people shouldn't know each other too well if they want to fall in love. But then maybe they shouldn't fall in love at all."
- Vittoria (Monica Vitti)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: March 16, 2005

Stars: Monica Vitti, Alain Delon
Other Stars: Francisco Rabal
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some sensuality, brief language)
Run Time: 02h:05m:48s
Release Date: March 15, 2005
UPC: 037429202623
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+AB A-

DVD Review

Blackness gives way to reveal a lamp, a stack of books, and a swatch of wrinkled white fabric. The camera seems perfectly content to linger on these random objects, until the fabric suddenly moves, bringing the camera to life. Prompted to perform a simple pan, a man's white shirt sleeve is revealed, as is the man wearing it. Riccardo (Francisco Rabal) sits in a room, contemplative. The only sound is the slight whirring of an electric fan, seemingly communicating through the movement of air what words cannot. A stunning woman is shown. Her heels click against the floor as she meanders about the room, unsure what else there is to say. This is the end of their love.

The last film in an informal trilogy begun by L'Avventura and La Notte (some include his next film, Red Desert, forming a tetralogy), Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse begins with a captivating sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the picture. Traditional narrative structure is nonexistent here; a liberating prospect that can produce tedium in the hands of a lesser director. From the opening credits, which shift from blaring pop music to shrill horns over its modern titles, this is a continuum of unpredictability, where random events, incidents and encounters drive the narrative. It makes for intriguing, unpredictable and altogether fascinating cinema; a bore to some, and a joy for others.

Vittoria (Monica Vitti) has just left her lover. No other man has intruded on the relationship, but her feelings are fleeting. She is a unique spirit, trapped within a modern, isolating world teetering between the tradition of old Italy and the wave of modernity. Lonely, and possibly content to be so if necessary, Vittoria wanders through the open spaces of suburbia, chatting with friends, enjoying a little aviation, and seeking meaning. Her mother is an avid player of the stock market, looking to strike it rich and fight the fear of poverty. Vittoria frequents the "boxing match" of the exchange, where men shout, growl, and run around like animals hunting prey. She is dismayed by this obsession with currency, and her mother knows it; she is annoyed at her daughter's appearances.

The market bears fruit, however, in the form of Piero (Alain Delon), a young hotshot broker. Rarely able to stand still for a second, he runs circles around the more contemplative Vittoria, barely noticing her beauty during their initial contacts. Barely is still enough, however, and soon thereafter love blossoms. Piero is in a mad rush. He treats love like cutting a deal; there is simply no time to waste. Vittoria prefers the gradual approach, teasing her suitor at first, only allowing a true first kiss from the opposite side of a glass panel. Piero quickly removes the barriers between them, beginning a love that may endure, or fade like the last one. Is either capable of true love, or is this merely an erotic attraction? How does one truly connect with another? The struggle ensues.

Some have claimed this is Antonioni's condemnation of capitalism, depicting the stockbrokers as savages, not far removed from the rage of a prison riot. On the contrary, Antonioni is not interested in approving or disapproving of modern life, but in exploring its effect on humanity. How does one survive in such an unforgiving place? Made during the height of tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union, the cloud of nuclear holocaust is palpable, made evident through a recurring building that resembles a mushroom; we are reminded of the thin line between bliss and horror. There is not much of a script here; dialogue is replaced by meaningful spaces: apartments, parks, half-constructed buildings. The relationship of the characters to these locales is paramount. It is a cerebral pursuit, no doubt, but one that is a joy to watch, made all the more compelling by the subtle expressions and breathtaking beauty of Monica Vitti. Delon's intensity is a fine counterpoint to Vitti's elegance.

Antonioni's assured eye is masterful, weaving wonderfully composed images together like a tapestry. Like the visuals, the random incidents that drive the narrative are carefully chosen, and are not without purpose and controversy. One such event features Vitti dressing up like an African tribal warrior and dancing to entertain her racist, colonialist Italian friend who has just moved from Kenya. It is an intriguing and disturbing scene that ends when a pack of dogs suddenly escape, forcing the women outside into the night air. Symbolic portents reach a climax in the long, winding but powerful ending that leaves a gaping hole in the viewer; it is Antonioni's final visual message to a world on the brink of self-annihilation.

It's hard not to listen.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Criterion's black-and-white 1.85:1 transfer is stunningly luminous. Contrast is solid, exhibiting deep, rich blacks, clean whites, and a fine sense of grayscale. Grain and print defects are at a minimum, revealing Antonioni's unique imagery in full detail.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoItalianno


Audio Transfer Review: The monaural Italian audio is quite austere, reflecting the themes of isolation throughout. Dialogue and music are clear, with minimal hiss and only occasional harshness.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 19 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Documentaries
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Richard Peņa
Packaging: Double alpha
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. 32-page booklet
Extras Review: Criterion has assembled another quality double-disc set. The extras begin on Disc 1 with an audio commentary by Richard Peņa, program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in New York. Peña's comments are consistently well informed and intriguing. He makes a fine, insightful analysis of Antonioni's intentions behind certain scenes and images, providing one plausible interpretation of the material. This is a solid track.

Disc 2 opens with Michelangelo Antonioni: The Eye That Changed Cinema (55m:48s), a 2001 documentary by Sandro Lai. The piece follows the director's career, from his early days in documentary filmmaking (a discipline that greatly informs later works, including L'Eclisse) to more modern artistic pursuits. This looks to have been produced for television, and the quality is mixed. Still, this is a revealing piece with some great archival interviews with Antonioni himself, behind-the-scenes footage, film clips, and even a bit with Monica Vitti in the recording studio dubbing L'Eclisse.

Elements of Landscape (21m:59s) is a new video interview, recorded in 2004, featuring Italian film critic Adriano Apra and longtime Antonioni friend Carlo di Carlo. The two offer comments separately, dissecting L'Eclisse, and placing it in its proper historical and cinematic context. Topics of discussion include Antonioni's chosen title, the film's sci-fi feel, the subject of encroaching modernity, directing actors, the film's photographic attributes, and more.

Finally, a thick 32-page booklet, stuffed inside the double Alpha keepcase, contains essays by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Gilberto Perez, and excerpts from Antonioni's writings on his work.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

Antonioni's film is an unconventional, captivating exploration of isolation, love and the struggles of modern life. Characters interact with geographic space, commenting on a distinct point in history. Its messages continue to resonate today, where the digital world is slowly eclipsing our reality, and our cinema. Are we becoming more or less connected? See Criterion's superb set for a hint.

 


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