L’Avventura (Antonioni, 1960)

One of the great films on the complex nature of communication and body language, specifically the resulting contortions of feeling springing forth during moments of high tension, lust, and disappointment. Antonioni’s masterpiece sublimely maneuvers through these motifs by inspecting various relationships between men and women; the shared desires, the contrasting needs, and the dense emotional foliage hiding under the surface. The shear beauty of the visuals compliments the haunting rhythms of character action occurring on all three planes of the frame and the universality of the themes feel incredibly fresh even today. 
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It’s hard to imagine modern cinema without Antonioni’s fluid long takes, crisp sound design, and epic spaces. The sequence on the island, where Antonioni’s characters search for their missing companion, slurps the life out of the crashing ocean waves and redirects the energy onto the characters’ building conflicts.

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L’Avventura creates a perfect parallel between character and landscape, maybe the best I’ve seen. Antonioni seems to be speaking about humanity through the only language that comes close to making sense; the aesthetics of cinema which enable a subtelty and ambiguousness worthy of the small moments shared between lovers. The last shot of the film seen below is Antonioni’s shining example.

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And to think, I made it through film school and Graduate school having never seen this. The first of many viewings, I’m sure.  

Zabriskie Point (Antonioni, 1970)

Antonioni uses sound in ways I’ve still yet to fully comprehend, and Zabriskie Point exemplifies a layering of audio that creates a constant clash with image, a great parallel to the conflict between establishment capitalism and militant reactionary motivations at odds throughout the film. Story takes a back seat, but Antonioni wants to deliver a series of volatile situations, which aided by his complicated sound track (including the awesome music by Pink Floyd), shows the fragmented nature of the protesters dissatisfaction with the moral majority and the mainstream response falling short of any sensitivity to human rights. Antonioni’s examples are extreme, making the young couple, Mark and Daria’s experience together in the middle of the desert that much more transcendent. I’ve never seen a love making scene filmed like this; including alternative bodies existing on the same level of consciousness as the young couple, amidst the same dusty environment, feeling the same dissatisfaction with “normal life”, so happy to have found each other, all invisible to anyone else. Antonioni’s films the unforgettable plane sequence and the desert shots with a mixture of wide angle masters and wandering zooms. While not as scathing a political indictment as The Passenger or Blow Up, Zabriskie Point shows Anotnioni has a lot to say about the contradictions in both the capitalist pigs and the left wing nuts, ending on the consequences of such misunderstandings with an explosive finish.