Stunning restoration of Michelangelo Antonioni's masterpiece of disaffection
In 1962 Michelangelo Antonioni brought his alienation trilogy to a close with the characteristically magnificent L'Eclisse (The Eclipse), available to adore anew with the release of this crisp, freshly devastating digital restoration. Like L'Avventura and La Notte, it once again stars Antonioni's lover at the time Monica Vitti, whose attention-grabbing, pale, quite un-Italian beauty and delicately expressed turmoil renders her a captivating anomaly.
Set in Rome after the kind of long dark night of the soul seen in La Notte, Vitti plays Vittoria, an enviably attired translator who begins the film by breaking up with her older fiancé Riccardo (Francisco Rabal), whom she no longer cares for. Cast back out into the world she's both giddily liberated, emotionally exhausted and oddly adrift; her attempts at frivolous interactions are punctured by melancholic moments – remembrances perhaps, or premonitions of doom – and, although she finds herself drawn to and amused by life's minutiae, she's estranged from the society that surrounds her.
Into her life strolls Piero (Alain Delon), a caddish and restless stockbroker who's been advising Vittoria's mother (Lilla Brignone). While Vittoria snakes through the modern world in a dreamy, disconnected haze (mirrored by her director, for whom the incidental is everything), with his fast cars, money hungry job and pursuit of quick, easy thrills, Piero epitomises the move toward materialism. The pair enter into a romantic limbo, sharing nothing but good looks and desire. 'I wish I didn't love you, or that I loved you much more,' Vittoria says sadly.
Although it's equivalently unconventional, for the most part, L'Eclisse is less opaque than its predecessors (and its similarly themed successor Red Desert), with memorable comedic interludes and touches, and vivid performances. It's striking how relevant it still seems, in its portrayal of farcical and frantic stock exchange machinations – so emphatically conducted and with the capacity to ruin, yet so removed from reality. Meanwhile, the quest for human connection is another prominent concern, as Vittoria finds herself frustrated by the passing fancy of love and her inability to find lasting happiness.
Legendary cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo (La Notte, 8½) is the man behind the iconic, monochrome compositions, as ever imbuing domestic environs and cityscapes with a heady dose of the strange, particularly during the deeply unsettling ending. And its stars differing charismas – her cool and capricious, him hot and heavy – make for a beguiling blend, playing up the incompatibility of the sexes. How wonderful that, especially in its newly finessed form, this cinematic milestone remains as pertinent, intriguing and seductive as ever.
Selected reissue from Fri 28 Aug.