Combustible Celluloid
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With: Monica Vitti, Alain Delon, Francisco Rabal, Lilla Brignone, Rossana Rory, Mirella Ricciardi, Louis Seigner
Written by: Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, Elio Bartolini, Ottiero Ottieri
Directed by: Michelangelo Antonioni
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Italian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 126
Date: 04/12/1962

L'eclisse (1962)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Loving More and Less

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Seeing Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse (a.k.a. "Eclipse") a second time (on HuluPlus) has convinced me that it's the director's best film, and therefore the best Italian movie ever made. During this time Antonioni was as radical as they come, changing the way that people saw movies and opening up a world of new possibilities. His framing in this movie is far more subtle and intricate than in L'Avventura, as great as that film is. A rainbarrel, for example, shown in a few shots, becomes a profoundly moving device for describing a relationship.

As it begins, translator Vittoria (Monica Vitti) has just stayed up all night arguing with her boyfriend, and there's nothing left but to break up. The boyfriend tries to hang on a bit longer, but there's no use. Then we meet both Vittoria's mother and a slick, handsome playboy, Piero (Alain Delon), at the stock exchange. These scenes are shown with an incredible focus and realism, like a documentary, but more inside the room, rather than observing from the edges. After a huge market crash, Vittoria winds up wandering around with Piero, and they slowly fall into a relationship. Although at one point Vittoria says she wishes that she didn't love him, or that she loved him more.

During the final few minutes, Antonioni makes his most daring move. Rather than seeing the lovers married or walking off into the sunset or even splitting up, he simply leaves them and watches the events of the street corner where they first met (including the aforementioned rainbarrel). It can be assumed that the lovers merely did not show up again, that they are absent, but it can also be interpreted in other ways. It's as if Antonioni wanted to indicate the elusiveness of love, but wanted to do so without making any kind of concrete proclamation about it.

All of the black-and-white framing here is virtually flawless. All the events, angles, and backgrounds -- a cafe, Vittoria's mother's small house, Piero's huge house, his buys office, etc. -- perfectly mirror or enhance what's happening in the movie. In fact, these things are far more important than a story, since this movie really has none. And yet, with all this, there's still something wonderfully sad and cozy about L'Eclisse. It's a bit cynical, to be sure, but it's comfortable in its cynicism, and hugely appealing for it.

In 2014, the Criterion Collection updated their old DVD with a great new multi-disc edition, including a Blu-ray and two DVDs. The Blu-ray was created from two 35mm master positives, and the soundtrack is uncompressed. Richard Peña provides a commentary track. Extras include a 55-minute documentary about Antonioni, and a 22-minute study of the film by Italian film critic Adriano Aprà. The liner notes booklet includes essays by film critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Gilberto Perez, as well as excerpts from Antonioni's own writing about his work.

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