L'Avventura (1960)

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Released 3-Jul-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Documents and Tesstimonials 58.16
Featurette-Michaelangelo Antonioni: A Portrait 55.37
Audio Commentary-Jake Wilson : Film Critic for The Age
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1960
Running Time 2:23 (Case: 143)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (120:09)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michelangelo Antonioni
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Gabriele Ferzetti
Monica Vitti
Lea Massari
Dominique Blanchar
Renzo Ricci
James Addams
Dorothy De Poliolo
Lelio Luttazzi
Giovanni Petrucci
Esmeralda Ruspoli
Jack O'Connell
Angela Tommasi Di Lampedusa
Franco Cimino
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $34.95 Music Giovanni Fusco


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English AV Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

Films are born as poems are born in the heart of a poet.
Words, images, concepts present themselves to the mind, they are all mixed together,
and the result is the poem. I believe it is the same for films.

Michelangelo Antonioni

It is somewhat fitting that the morning after I watched Umbrella Entertainment's release of Michelangelo Antonioni's 1960 film L'Avventura (The Adventure) , I awoke to the news that the aging master (he was 94) had finally shuffled off this mortal coil. It was fitting for whilst L'Avventura may not be Antonioni's best film, it is certainly the movie that brought him to international fame.

His fame was not really the result of universal acclaim but rather a good measure of controversy. It seems that at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival the best way to get into a fight would be to stand on a table in a local café and either profess love or derision for L'Avventura. The film opened at the festival to a tumultuous reception with audiences shouting "boring" and even giving the movie the slow hand clap. So intense was the response that members of the jury signed a joint statement announcing the film to be a masterpiece and it eventually won the jury prize.

The seed of the controversy is to be found in the very features that typify an Antonioni film. There are long static shots, dialogue that is (depending upon your interpretation) either pregnant with meaning or devoid of point and a lack of any truly definable narrative.

L'Avventura became the first in what has been called the "Alienation" Trilogy. It was followed by La Notte (The Night 1961) and L'Eclisse (The Eclipse 1962). In fact, Il Deserto Rosso (The Red Desert 1964) is often regarded as a further film in the "trilogy". The films are clearly associated in theme and technique and all feature Antonioni's muse of the 1960's, Monica Vitti. Like Antonioni, Vitti became something of an international star with the release of L'Avventura.

The making of the film was an adventure in itself. Antonioni struggled to find secure financial backing for the movie. More than once Antonioni found himself without a crew, who had walked off due to lack of payment. Even the filming of the scenes on the bare volcanic rock at the beginning of the film was fraught with problems. The cast were abandoned on the island one night due to bad weather and forced to hide from the storm in a bare shelter.

The plot, or lack thereof, of L'Avventura has been the subject of much critical discussion.

Anna (Lea Massari) and Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) are bored lovers. Sandro, something of a playboy, has been working away and doesn't seem to mind the isolation. Anna is similarly confused. Devoted to Sandro, she nevertheless feels that the more he stays away the happier she is at his absence.

The pair are joined by Claudia (Monica Vitti) for a boat trip with some rich couples off the coast of Sicily. After spending time swimming, the group gather on a virtually uninhabited volcanic rock. When it is time to leave Anna is discovered to be missing.

As the film progresses Sandro and Claudia are drawn to each other whilst searching for the missing woman. Eventually the search is scaled back and the film focuses on the difficult relationship between the boyfriend and the best friend.

Antonioni becomes so preoccupied with the nature of the relationship that he allows the mystery aspect of the film to drift away into nothingness, no doubt confusing audiences at the time. Instead of a murder mystery it is really an existential search for meaning in post-war industrial Italy.

There is no doubt that L'Avventura is a seminal work of cinema. Arguably Antonioni created the whole idea of actors as figures in a landscape with this film and it would come to influence cinema thereafter. In particular, Wim Wenders and Wong Kar-Wai owe him a huge debt. Even Sofia Coppola with Lost in Translation taps into the Antonioni well.

As the leads, Ferzetti and Vitti convey their roles with an emptiness that suits Antonioni's purpose. Vitti's Claudia is a frustratingly modern woman, independent yet unknowable. Her back-story is as empty as the lives of the idle rich that Antonioni skewers with this film.

The story moves at a glacial pace and through these distant, spare shots Antonioni is able to portray the lives of the wealthy as ultimately meaningless and devoid of regular pleasure. The script is oblique and generally unhelpful in understanding the characters. Rather the audience has to draw the meaning from the artful silences, rhythmic editing and carefully composed frames.

For reasons that are not entirely clear, the release order of these films in the Alienation "Trilogy" has been haphazard at best. Madman Entertainment was first off the blocks with Il Deserto Rosso followed by Umbrella Entertainment with La Notte. It only remains to be seen when L'Eclisse will find a local release. For my money, La Notte is probably the most well rounded of the films in terms of performance and vision although Il Deserto Rosso represented Antonioni's first and very spectacular foray into colour film.

Ultimately L'Avventura must be recognised as an important film but that does not make it suitable for everyone. It is a matter of catching the film's subtle rhythm. Any attempt to identify with the characters is bound to end in confusion.

Ultimately L'Avventura is a film which should be seen by anyone with an interest in the history of cinema as well as those who find the languid and the oblique in movies to be enthralling. It certainly offers, in spades, evidence for those who would champion Antonioni's brilliance as well as those who would call him over rated.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

 L'Avventura comes to DVD in a 1.85:1 transfer which is consistent (see comment below) with its original wide screen cinematic aspect ratio. It is 16:9 enhanced.

There are no comments on the DVD case to suggest that it has been through a detailed restoration process. Nevertheless the film looks remarkably good for its age.

Although the picture is a little soft and grainy, it is all well within acceptable limits and a pleasure to watch.

Antonioni's static shooting style means that the film as an artwork is always visually interesting even if not a lot happens within the frame. The only complaint I would have is that there are occasional focus problems but I would suspect that these were present in the original film.

There are artefacts throughout (including a dreaded black line from top to bottom of frame at 2.15) however they too are within acceptable limits. Pesky hairs seem to pop up from time to time and represent the worst of the regular intrusions.The telecine wobbles about a bit at the beginning of the film but settles down once things get underway.

There are no problems with compression, nor did I notice any aliasing.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

  The sound for L'Avventura is Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 running at 224 Kb/s.

The film is not particularly expansive sonically and it is well served by the bare transfer. The dialogue is clearly rendered and appears to be in good audio sync. I would suspect that much of the film was looped.

The music by Giovanni Fusco is interesting though sparsely used. In the audio commentary it is suggested that Antonioni told Fusco that he wanted a soundtrack of jazz that is not jazz and he has created an interesting sound which is quite memorable.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

This is a 2 DVD Collectors Edition of the film.

Audio Commentary Jake Wilson, Film Critic for The Age

The first DVD contains the audio commentary by Jake Wilson, Film Critic for The Age. It is always a daunting prospect facing a commentary from a film critic on a film of almost 2 and a half hours length. One always fears obscure theoretics and lengthy descriptions of the layers of meaning in each shot.

Fortunately, Wilson is a direct and clear communicator. That's not to say that it is a romp through the film. Wilson is no intellectual slouch and he knows his Antonioni yet he is able to give an interesting and informative commentary that can be enjoyed by film theorists and regular fans alike.

Antonioni's Statement on L'Avventura - at the Cannes Film Festival

The DVD case contains Antonioni's statement on L'Avventura at the Cannes Film Festival. I have read the statement several times and still don't know exactly what Antonioni is talking about. It was a response to the condemnation that the film received from various quarters that it was amoral for the two lovers to hook up so soon after the disappearance of Anna.

The second DVD contains two documentaries, each roughly an hour.

Featurette Documents and Testimonials 58.16

Documents and Testimonials was made in 1966 and comprises of a series of interviews with Antonioni and his colleagues. The documentary is fairly basic in its approach and certainly looks every bit of its 40 years. However for Antonioni lovers it helps to get at the enigma of the man. Interestingly, the common theme of the colleagues is that Antonioni was a friendly, charming and generous man in private life but on set and during production he was tireless and sometimes tyrannical, with a constant vision that did not accept compromise.

Featurette: Michelangelo Antonioni: A Portrait 55.37

The second feature, Michelangelo Antonioni: A Portrait is an interesting documentary which also consists of interviews (though far more with Antonioni himself) and charts the course of his cinema from the 40's through to the 80's. As good as it is, lovers of Antonioni may well be disappointed that it is a repeat of the film which appears as an extra to both Il Deserto Rosso and La Notte. In my review of those films I said:

This lengthy feature is not so much a documentary but rather a chronology of Michelangelo Antonioni's career as seen through interviews, film excerpts and footage of him working and directing his various features. It is from the Timeless Cinema series and, like the similar features for Bertolucci and de Sica, it provides not only an effective career summary but also a chance to see footage that is almost inexplicably still in existence.

He tries to dispel the notion that he is an intellectual filmmaker. However, he says that films should never be made simply to make money - they should be created to be "as beautiful as possible."

Watching the documentary again to see the references to L'Avventura I was struck by the home movie footage of Antonioni and Vitti, the couple, watching home movies from the shoot.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   L'Avventura has received different editions in various regions. The starting point, as usual, is with the Region 1 Criterion Collection.

This has an audio commentary by film historian Gene Youngblood as well as the Antonioni: Documents and Testimonials featurette as well as the reprint of Antonioni's "Cannes Statement" .

It also has extra features including:

Two essays by Antonioni, read by Jack Nicholson:
- “L’Avventura: A Moral Adventure” (9:45)
- “Reflections on the Film Actor” (6:09)
“Working with Antonioni” - Jack Nicholson’s personal recollections of the director (5:15)
Restoration demonstration (3:32)
Theatrical trailer (2:12)
.

Finally, there is an 8-page fold-out booklet, featuring a new essay by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. L'Avventura is released by Umbrella Entertainment in a 2 DVD collectors edition. The Region 2 French edition has a featurette entitled Analyse de séquences par Olivier Assayas (45 mins). It would be interesting to hear what the noted critic, screenwriter and filmmaker has to say about the film. Rather than use the whole of the featurette it includes “Storia di un Autore”, an extract from Gianfranco Mingozzi’s documentary Antonioni: Documents and Testimonials (8 mins).

There is also:

Interview with Antonioni and Monica Vitti (1961) (11 mins)
“Cinéma, Cinéma - Monica” - interview with Monica Vitti (1990) (9 mins)
Theatrical Trailer (3 mins)

There is also a Region 2 Italy version which has various extras:

Presentzione di Maurizion Porro (5:26)
Cinema Forever (1980) (7:36)
About the restoration (5:42)
Ricordi su L'avventura (Interview with Antonio Basile) (2003) (14:41)

In my view the Region 1 Criterion Collection has the edge but there is still a great deal of satisfaction to be found in the Region 4 release.

Summary

    Love it or hate it, L'Avventura can't be ignored. Long, slow takes, meandering dialogue and silent looks (all part of the Antonioni oeuvre) are all distilled in this film.

The sound and vision are pretty good given the age and shooting history of the film.

There are so many extras that for once a Collectors Edition really meets expectations.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, August 24, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70 Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
l'Avventura aspect ratio - flixyflox REPLY POSTED
L'Avventura - to Trevor