Michelangelo Antonioni

Born to a bourgeois family in Ferrara, Italy, in 1912, Michelangelo Antonioni was interested in the arts from an early age. At ten, his hobby was constructing puppets; he took up oil painting in his teens. He attended the University of Bologna, where he studied economics and business but, in his off hours, he wrote stories and plays and cofounded a student theater group. He also discovered the cinema and wrote reviews for a local paper. A vocal anti-fascist, he continually ran into censorship problems because of his views and lost many jobs. Despite those problems, he began working on films as a writer and an assistant director.

After World War II (during which he was involved with the underground), Antonioni began making his own short films while continuing to write, including co-authoring Federico Fellini's debut THE WHITE SHEIK (1952) (which, it is rumored, he was to have directed himself). His first feature, STORY OF A LOVE AFFAIR (1950), won several awards at international film festivals and included early signs of Antonioni's mature style: bleak exteriors, meticulously composed shots and long takes with a moving camera. It also signaled Antonioni's interest in the Italian bourgeoisie which would be his primary focus throughout his Italian features. Subsequent films LE AMICHE (1955) and IL GRIDO (1957) attracted critical attention, but it was L'AVVENTURA (1960) that brought him international fame.

The first in a series of films concerning middle-class alienation and spiritual dislocation, L'AVVENTURA , is a contemplative, austere film virtually without a story. The focus is on the characters and their emotional lives, explored as much through Antonioni's mise-en-scene as through the dialogue. These themes were continued through LA NOTTE (1961) and L'ECLISSE (1962), completing a loose trilogy. He turned to color in RED DESERT (1964) where he pushed the themes of isolation and personal dislocation to the breaking point.

Antonioni made his English language debut with BLOW-UP (1966), set in swinging London, and went stateside for ZABRISKIE POINT (1970) and THE PASSENGER (1975), but returned to Italy for the remainder of his career. In 1985, a heart attack left him partially paralyzed yet he continued making films or preparing film projects until his death in 2007.
– Sean Axmaker


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