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Antonioni's Controversial Modern Epic 'L'avventura' Screens At Cinefamily

Monica Vitti in L'avventura (Courtesy Intramovies and Mediaset)
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By Carman Tse

This summer the most evocative vista on the silver screen in Los Angeles won’t be the buttes of Monument Valley in The Lone Ranger or the galactic wonders of Star Trek Into Darkness. Instead, it'll be the visage of Monica Vitti. Not just because Vitti is one of the beauties of classic European cinema, but for that perpetual searching gaze through all of Michelangelo Antonioni's L'avventura.

L’avventura (1960) ostensibly starts as a search for something a little more tangible: wealthy socialite Anna (Lea Massari) has disappeared on a pleasure cruise on the Mediterranean, and her boyfriend Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) and best friend Claudia (Vitti) soon embark on a journey through Italy hot on her trail. It wouldn’t be much of a spoiler to reveal that ultimately the film is less concerned with the whereabouts of Anna than it is with the search for spirituality and the essence of humanity.

A landscape framed among landscapes, Vitti’s face itself is a blank space that Antonioni’s camera seems to have drained the life of—to a startling effect. Claudia’s gaze is piercing and yearning as she wanders barren islands and ghost towns in search of her friend. Fields of volcanic rocks are literal wastelands. Hallways are endless. In one memorable shot, a balcony almost appears to be an endless sea of white in which Claudia finds herself set adrift (perhaps one of the best examples of negative space in the film). Sandro and Claudia soon find something in each other, but much like the world they wander, it is unfulfilling. There is no there there.

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Initially L’avventura was rejected by the audience when it first premiered at Cannes in 1960 and was met by polarized opinions. But it would wind up winning the Special Jury Prize and has since been warmly embraced as a landmark of European art cinema. The themes of L’avventura remain timeless, but the restored 35mm print (not just a DCP) by Janus Films gives the film a life that it probably hasn’t had since it first arrived over fifty years ago. L’avventura is a spiritual journey every cinephile must take at least once.

L'Avventura Trailer (new 35mm print!) from Cinefamily on Vimeo.

A new 35mm print of Michelangelo Antonioni's L'avventura (1960) will be screening at Cinefamily for a week starting at 7 pm on Friday. For showtimes, visit the theater's website.