L’Eclisse (1962)

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The finale of Antonioni’s unofficial disconnect trilogy (preceded by L’Avventura and La Notte) is something I’ve been working towards for a few years now. I first had my interest piqued in these movies by Antonioni’s dominance in Scorsese’s My Voyage to Italy where he describes L’Eclisse‘s form-over-fiction ending as “a frightening way to end a film… but at the time it also felt liberating. The final seven minutes of L’Eclisse suggested to us that the possibilities in cinema were absolutely limitless.” How can you not get excited by that?

So lets start with that sequence. From my experience of Antonioni, he has a real knack for endings. I’m still recovering from the Zabriskie Point climax which rocked my world last year and seeing the closing movements of L’Eclisse the other night also had quite a poignant effect on me. Antonioni abandons the idea of traditional closure and instead descends deeper into the form of film itself to find meaning. The empty shots that close L’Eclisse are so loaded with meaning that they become haunted. You don’t need to see Alain Delon or Monica Vitti anymore. We know how their story pans out by these select images. It’s quite extraordinary.

I often see these three Antonioni movies as celebrations of Monica Vitti’s absolute beauty. She is one of the most enchanting actresses I’ve ever come across and as she was the director’s lover and muse at the time, I’m not surprised she’s so central to their effect. She isn’t the greatest actress ever but she has a presence and an aura that is more important than mere acting talent. She belongs in cinema. At the beginning of L’Eclisse we find her occupying an apartment with a mysterious breeze constantly blowing her hair. We later find out the breeze comes from a fan but it enhances her otherwordliness. She so effortlessly captures a mood and tone that is exclusive to this period of international filmmaking. She really is dazzling to watch and I find her fascinating in all three of these films. Has any actress embodied unfulfilment, female independence and geographical disconnect with one look as effectively since Vitti? I think not.

The film looks wonderful and the silvery photography (present also in the previous two films) is a wonder. I did feel like this one had more dips in interest than the other films in the trilogy and Delon never really grabbed me as much as the other faces. It might be my least favourite of the three but is essential because of how boldly Antonioni was willing to experiment with form. That ending is an all timer. A film only a true artist could make. It’s no wonder he transitioned to colour from here on out. A key text in world cinema that still feels modern and bold. I look forward to revisiting it in five years.

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