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The Essential Movie Library #47: L’Avventura (1960)

Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni created a new cinematic language for ennui.

Like fellow Italian filmmakers Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio de Sica, Michelangelo Antonioni was trained by his country’s shattering experience in World War II to build a neorealist cinema out of the Roman rubble. But somewhere along the way he noticed the modern age was outracing the “real,” and in his breakthrough picture—which, tellingly, was both roundly rejected and wildly acclaimed within hours at the Cannes festival where it premiered—conflict and story gradually vanish from the screen as surely as the woman who goes missing on an island, barely to be thought of again let alone seen.

Antonioni understood that when alienation looks as ravishing as star Monica Vitti, in whose face anguish is constantly at war with languor, oblivion takes on an incontestable allure. So he created a new language for ennui: long pans of beauty and desolation, conversations that trail off into the lyricism of pauses. Half a century later this movie looks as contemporary as ever; even money says Sofia Coppola has seen it more than anything by her father. 

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #46: Malcolm X
The Essential Movie Library #45: In the Mood for Love
The Essential Movie Library #44: Touch of Evil
The Essential Movie Library #43: Once Upon A Time in the West
The Essential Movie Library #42: Belle de Jour
The Essential Movie Library #41: Apocalypse Now
The Essential Movie Library #40: Out of the Past
The Essential Movie Library #39: Branded to Kill
The Essential Movie Library #38: The General
The Essential Movie Library #37: Lord of the Rings
The Essential Movie Library #36: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
The Essential Movie Library #35: Raging Bull
The Essential Movie Library #34: The Rules of the Game
The Essential Movie Library #33: Chinatown 
The Essential Movie Library #32: Stalker
The Essential Movie Library #31: Weekend
The Essential Movie Library #30: Some Like It Hot 
The Essential Movie Library #29: Red River
The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy