When I discovered Netflix – and its surprisingly infinite and diverse collection – in New York in 2007, I started making a list of the films I should see before I move back to Turkey. I began to skim the entire collection through themes. One day I would look at Asian movies, the other one, focus on Godard. Add the Juliette Binoche ones today, check the Cannes/Berlin winners tomorrow… After a few months and numerous films, I realized most of my highest-rated movies were among the Criterion Collection. So the decision was taken: I was going to do my best to watch as many Criterion Collection movies as I could.
One day last winter, I ordered L’avventura (1960) — that’s when I first met Michelangelo Antonioni. Then came the remainder of the trilogy: La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962).
An Italian master visual stylist, Antonioni, an existentialist, developed his characters on subjects like l’ennui, purposeless, the abstract.. combined those with long shots, slow motions, complex images — mostly in black and white. The way he captured the world and experienced with his camera was different than any other film director I’ve seen before. What many other artists and directors run away from or try to avoid.. the mystery of life, human loneliness, isolation, silence in life.. were grasped at beauty in the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times in his motion pictures.
I didn’t succeed in finishing off my Netflix list – the rest of the list is still with me, printed, waiting to be gone through over some time. Watching slow black and white movies is not enjoyable for everyone, I agree. But if you really enjoy silence instead of words, long shots instead of action, and most importantly, something new that changed the vision of cinema.. give this trilogy a try.
On another note – if you’re interested in reading more about Antonioni, Taschen has an amazing publication on him: Poetry and motion: the film art of Michelangelo Antonioni. It’s short and to the point, illustrated with lots of great photos. Here is the book.