I’m starting today off with a bit of personal background. The fact that I’m as into film as I am is unexpected considering where I came from. My family growing up was not a movie family, far from it. I can count on one hand the number of times that we took a family trip to the theaters, and there was no appreciation for classic film instilled in me. This left some serious holes in my viewed catalogue that I’m still working on filling. Years ago, if you would have pressured me on this, I would have considered it a personal failing and that it made me unworthy of calling myself a cinephile, but anymore, I just accept it as what it is, my personal reality. All this is to say, I watched two new-to-me classics today.
L’avventura (1960, Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni)
This film was absolutely beautiful, both visually and in it’s story telling. Act one of the film takes place primarily on an island where the rich characters are taking a holiday. It’s at the moment that our supposed protagonist Anna (Lea Massari) vanishes leaving us with her friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) and boyfriend Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) as the new leads. The island is home to some of the most striking shots of the film. It becomes easy to get lost in the beauty and forget the dark scenario that has taken place.
I may have mentioned an act one above, but one of the most interesting things about the film is how it subverts the three-act structure. Anna disappearing acts as a traditional inciting incident, and Claudia and Sandro searching for her is a rising action, but the film has no climax. It instead wanders focusing on characters and visuals. Antonioni just allows the film to linger especially on Vitti who is immaculate for every second that she is on the screen. A wonderfully perfect film.
The General (1926, Dir. Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman)
If never having seen L’avventura is a blind spot for a cinephile, never having seen The General is like having a log in your eye, but that log has been removed. I’m actually a little torn on this film. Devoid of context the film is brilliant. The film is packed with wonderful physical comedy and impressive practical set pieces. I spent much of the film smiling at the wonder of this film from almost 100 years ago. And then there were times when I would frown and feel slightly sick to my stomach. The film was created 60 years after the civil war, and yet the hero is fighting with the confederates against the north complete with images of Keaton proudly waving the confederate flag. It was off-putting imagery in a film lauded by so many.