Michelangelo Antonioni, 1912-2007

Michelangelo Antonioni was born on 29th Sepetember 1912 in Ferrara, a small provincial capital in north-east Italy which Antonioni himself described as "a marvellous little city on the Paduan plain, antique and silent". He entered the university of Bologna after highschool and graduating with a degree in economics. During this time he began writing about film and mercilessly criticized the famous Italien comedies of the 30s. he also attempted to make a documentary in a lunatic asylum, but it is not completed as the inmates went into paroxysms of terror when the lights for camera were switched on.

In 1940, he went to Rome to studying direction at the Centro Sperimentale. Two years later he worked as a scriptwriter, collaborating with directors such as Roberto Rossellini and Enrico Fulchignoni. From 1943-47, he directed his first documentary called Gente del Po. This was followed by several documentaries like N.U. and La Ville dei Mostri. Reviews on these works were encouraging and critics regarded his minimalist, structurally absent style and his way of observing reality as the main pioneer of neorealism in Italian cinema.

His debut feature, Story of A Love Affair, used complex camerwork to follow the detailed movement of the characters to tell a simple story of a wealthy woman who tries to unite with her ex-lover to murder her husband. This approach would typify his subsequent work.

Four more features followed Story of A Love Affair before Antonioni made his famous trilogy (The Adventure in '60, The Night in '61 and The Eclipse in '62). At this stage Antonioni adopted a kind of non-narrative and psychological cinema and story stucture became even less important. Characters in the stories entanged themselves in desperate relationships, though they all regarded love as their last refuge in the modern world. The Adventure was greeted withh catcalls during the premiere in Cannes but subsequently it took teh Special Jury Prize. The trilogy brought him great sucess and his name became famous all over the world.

After his first colour feature The Red Dessert in 1964, Antonioni went to England to make Blow Up in 1966. This marked the beginning of his international career. He then went to America and North Africa to make two big budget productions, Zabriskie Point in '70 and The Passenger in '75 respectively. Worth noticing is that Antonioni visited China during this period to make a 4-hour long documentary for television.

In 1980, the city of Bologna honoured Antonioni's achievements with its highest cultural award: Archiginnasio d'oro. During the decade Antonioni only made two more films and in 1985 he was impaired by a stroke, losing the power of language and becoming partially paralyzed. Resting for ten years, he came back to the cinema world with Beyond the Clouds in 1995, collaborating with another famous director Wim Wenders.

Besides being a director, Antonioni is also a writer and painter, publishing novels like That Bowling Alley on the Tiber and a painting collection The Enchanted Mountain. He does not see writing and painting as alien to film, but rather, that they are "a study of the way we observe".

The Hong Kong Arts Centre

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