MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Red Desert


Red Desert (Four Stars)
Italy; Michelangelo Antonioni, 1964 
     Red DesertMichelangelo Antonioni’s first feature in color, and a landmark of ‘60s Italian cinema — is a hypnotic portrait of a neurotic woman, Guiliana (played by the director’s then muse/lover, Monica Vitti), whose psyche begins to disintegrate in the bleak terrain of the petrochemical plant where her husband is the manager, even as she tries to care for her mysteriously ill little son and also takes a lover, Corrado (Richard Harris). That industrial plant, Antonioni insists, is a thing of beauty. (The movie was shot in Northern Italy in Ravenna, Antonioni’s childhood hometown.) But it also symbol of a modernist age that drives sensitive souls like Guiliana toward` breakdown.

Red Desert, like the four great black-and white Antonioni films that preceded it, Il Grido (1957), L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962), and the three brilliant English language color movies that followed it, Blowup (1966), Zabriskie Point (1970) and The Passenger (1975),  is visually stunning and dramatically somewhat terse and cryptic. The cool, precise compositions were influenced by the early color films of Godard and Resnais, and somewhat by contemporary  abstract painting by artists like Rothko and Newman. The score balances nerve-jangling electronic music and achingly pure soprano arias by Giovanni Fusco. The acting alternates the poker-faced (Harris) with the anguished (Vitti). The film is a modernist classic about the dangers of modernism.

       The movie, like all the best Antonioni,  compels the eye, and disturbs the mind while delicately fraying the nerves. The showpiece scenes are a not-quite-orgy (an echo of the more unbuttoned orgies in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita) in a fogbound shack near the lake, with Guiliana, her husband, her lover-to-be and their friends, and a lyrical dream/child’s story sequence set on a private island with a gorgeous beach. Interestingly, Antonioni manipulated the colors (even to painting the grass and trees) in the factory scenes, while the dream island sequence is the only one in the movie done with all natural colors.  The film, a near masterpiece, fills you with beautiful unease and cold poetry. (In Italian, with English subtitles.) Chicago, Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute. 164 N. State St., 312-846-2600. Browse

   Week run: 6 p.m., Fri., Nov 11. 7 :45 p.m., Sat., Nov. 12. 4:35 p.m., Sun., Nov. 13. 6 p.m., Mon., Nov. 14. 7:45 p.m., Tues., Nov. 15. 6 p.m., Wed., Nov. 16.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon