Cahiers du Coco: L'Avventura

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Join Ettes leader Coco Hames as she moves through the Janus Films Essential Art House DVD box set one film at a time.

L'AVVENTURA directed by MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI (1960)
Italian with English subtitles
Running time: 143 minutes

I'd kind of said to myself, I don't think it would be cool to get into the habit of saying anyone "HAS to see" any of these films, but I'll break my own rule immediately and say that about Antonioni's L'Avventura. Completely ineloquently. For several reasons, L'Avventura is one of the greatest movies the world has known. Not even just my opinion. Fact. From the haunting story (written in part by recently departed and Oscar-memorialized Tonino Guerra, who was an Italian concentration camp survivor and who also co-wrote Fellini's Amarcord) to the spooky and beautiful cinematography to the alien-level stunning Monica Vitti and the backdrop of the mountains and ocean and the Aeolian island on which it was filmed ... I think about this film every single day.

You might know director Michelangelo Antonioni from earlier neorealist work or his subsequent psychedelic films in English — Blow-Up (1966), Zabriskie Point (1969), The Passenger (1975) — but this is a good point to start knowin' you some Antonioni. The story goes like this: Some friends (and lovers) go out sailing, and one of them disappears. They look for her. Stuff happens. And doesn't happen.

L'Avventura is a groundbreaking film (I'll also try not to say "groundbreaking" too much, either, as it's redundant, considering the collection) in its exploration and expansion of what cinematic narrative had/has the potential to be. It is subtle, and it is long, but it's a work of art well worth watching; and it is an education, one without which I feel my personal movie life would be absolutely incomplete.

It is also the first of a trilogy: if you like L'Avventura, the subsequent La Notte (1961) and The Eclipse (1962) are related in style and substance. If you don't like L'Avventura — e.g., you find its journey through remarkable visual beauty and its study of modern ennui pretentious and boring — then you'll probably think everyone who likes L'Avventura is a snob and we all smell like dust and port (whatever port is).

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