Monday, June 10, 2013

A Whole Lot of Nothing

Film: L’Eclisse (The Eclipse)
Format: Streaming video from Hulu+ on various players.

I’m kind of dreading the next 600 or so words, because I don’t feel like I have anything to say about Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse (The Eclipse). I’ve had similar problems with Antonioni in the past. His films tend to be filled with a lot of stuff not happening, and not much of a plot. That’s certainly the case with this one. But, I’m game to try, so here we go.

A woman named Vittoria (Antonioni favorite Monica Vitti) breaks up with her boyfriend Riccardo (Frincisco Rabal). He tries to cling to the relationship, but eventually, they complete the break-up. Vittoria then goes to visit her mother (Lilla Brignone), who hangs around the Rome stock exchange monitoring what her broker is doing for her. Her broker is Piero (Alain Delon), who takes a moment between making scads of lire to introduce himself to Vittoria. Vittoria tries to gain some consolation from her mother about her recent break-up, but her mom is far too involved in the money she just made.

That night, Vittoria and her neighbor Anita (Rosanna Rory) go spend some time in the apartment of their neighbor Marta (Mirella Ricciardi) where things get racist. Marta and her husband have a farm in Kenya, so Vittoria dresses in blackface and dances around for a while. Eventually Marta starts complaining about the natives, calling them monkeys.

The next day, Vittoria flies on a private jet a while her mother loses a ton of money on the stock exchange. Despite the fact that Piero has managed to lose a good 10 million lire for her mother, Vittoria decides to hook up with him. Eventually, a drunk steals Piero’s car and drives it into a lake, killing himself. Piero is more concerned about his car than the dead guy, which Vittoria takes badly. Eventually, they appear as if they might fall in love. And then there’s the ending, which I won’t spoil. After almost two hours of not much happening, the ending isn’t much different, but it’s actually kind of surprising.

I tend to dislike films like this one because there feels like nothing here. This feels like a shorter version of The Mother and the Whore, which was twice as long and had just as much nothing happening. It’s very much like watching two hours of someone else’s life on a very typical day. You know, the kind of a day where nothing really interesting happens. I feel adrift in films like this and eventually feel like I should just pay attention to the cinematography.

Antonioni is hit or miss with me, almost right down the middle for the six of his films that I’ve seen. I loved Blow-Up; Zabriskie Point is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. He appears to be all about style rather than substance, and while I appreciate style as much as the next guy, I like a little cake underneath the frosting. Antonioni is all frosting.

I find this really frustrating, because I’m at a point where I don’t have anything constructive to say about this film. I found myself wandering mentally while this was on—it couldn’t hold my attention for more than a couple of minutes at a time. As a last resort, I’m going to consult The Book and see what it has to say. And it calls it the greatest film of the man’s career.

I guess there are times when I just don’t get it. This is one of those times. Film snobs, feel free to grace the comments with your scorn.

Why to watch L’Eclisse: A surprisingly effective ending.
Why not to watch: Like a lot of Antonioni, not a ton happens.


  1. When I saw your title I didn't even need to read the post to know that I was going to agree wholeheartedly. To me, he's an earlier version of Malick who's got a lot of pretty images and not a whole lot of plot. That's not a movie to me; it's just a collection of pretty images.

    1. Malick's images are prettier. I was so disappointed in this one.

  2. I guess I've seen enough of Antonioni's films that I know enough of what to expect that they've grown on me and I can actually enjoy them. (Which doesn't mean that I understand them in any meaningful way. Or maybe it does.)

    I saw L'eclisse today and I liked it a lot. Mostly, it seemed like a brilliant slice-of-life film with beautiful awesome beautiful Monica Vitti getting over a break-up and sort of (but not quite) easing herself into a new romance with a stockbroker who is almost as pretty as she is.

    I loved the scene with the racist girl from Kenya, and Vitti dressing up as a Masai dancer (or maybe as an exotic dancer from a Star Trek episode? I wasn't sure about that). And then the scene on the airplane and going to the Verona airport, where Vitti was just looking around and amazed with looking out the window and talking about clouds and smiling and laughing.

    I'm sure it wasn't meant to be a slice-of-life film (or maybe it was?). That last scene - and the ultimate fate of the relationship between Vitti and Alain Delon (who looks like Legolas as a stockbroker) - was actually pretty amazing. I sometimes think of Antonioni as an Italian Tarkovsky, but L'eclisse is more like Bergman, especially the ending.

    The first Antonioni film I saw was L'avventura. I didn't like the movie, but I fell in love with Monica Vitti. That was at least 20 years ago. Now I want to see L'avventura again.

    1. This was really style over substance for me. That works sometimes, but in this case it really didn't work for me.

  3. I see your point, Steve. It takes a certain mood or angle of viewing it to appreciate it. Your reaction matches mine with L'Avventura completely, but since then I have come to expect something else than an actual story from these movies. I would not go so far as to say that I like them, but there is something to get from them.

    1. Yeah, I think there are movies, like this one, for which your reaction really depends greatly on your mood and expectations going in.