Winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962, it was the final film in Antonioni’s informal trilogy on contemporary malaise (following L’Avventura and La Notte), a series of films that redefined the concept of narrative cinema.
Filmed in sumptuous black and white, and full of scenes of lush, strange beauty, it tells the story of Vittoria (the beautiful Monica Vitti – L’Avventura, La Notte, Red Desert – Antonioni’s partner at the time), a young woman who leaves her older lover (Francisco Rabal – Viridiana, The Holy Innocents, Goya in Bordeaux), then drifts into a relationship with a confident, ambitious young stockbroker (Alain Delon – Le Samourai, Rocco and his Brothers, Le Cercle Rouge). But this base narrative is the starting point for much, much more, including an analysis of the city as a place of estrangement and alienation and an implicit critique of colonialism.
Using the architecture of Rome – old and new – as a backdrop for this doomed affair, Antonioni achieves the apotheosis of his style in this return to the theme that preoccupied him the most: the difficulty of forming true connections amidst the meaninglessness of the modern world. The final shot remains one of the greatest endings in cinema. The film features stunning performances from two icons of 60s cinema: the seductive Monica Vitti and the elegant, chiseled Alain Delon.
Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, France, Italy, 1962, 126 mins, Subtitles
Cast: Monica Vitti, Alain Delon, Francisco Rabal