My enthusiasm for Antonioni exists, but has clear and well-defined borders. The reason? I’ve actually met people here in Europe very much like the people who populate his early films — self-involved aristocrats and bohemians with no visible means of support.
The mere fact that they’re the sort of people who populated Antonioni’s universe doesn’t meant they’re worthy of being filmed. As the Pet Shop Boys once put it, "We were never feeling bored / ‘Cause we were never being boring." The inert half-humans in Antonioni’s European films look so gorgeously, langorously bored because they are boring. And it’s pretty hard to make an interesting film about boring people, although Antonioni came as close as anyone. When he left Europe, though, he was capable of making some truly stunning films ("Red Desert"; "The Passenger.")
But now to German Arno Widmann. Widmann read the New York Times’ massive obituary of the Italian director, and had a few thoughts on ennui-laced Europeans and chirpy, superficial Americans. The piece ends, as so many things you read in European newspapers do, with a denunciation of pop culture:
The New York Times entitled its obituary of Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni – whose literary works are unfortunately little-known – with the words: "A Chronicler of Alienated Europeans in a Flimsy New World." The title underscores the hopelessness of Old Europe’s position. Even before the article began, it made clear how small and thoroughly passé the Old Europe – and one of its most astute representatives – look in the new world of the present.
But when nothing is questioned any more, when only laughter counts, when people over 60 watch film-versions of Rosamunde Pilcher romances and anyone younger watches comedy, the time has come to seek once more the earnestness we’re making fun of. When everything had to be tone-in-tone, when a tight-fitting suit and teased hair were the ne plus ultra of the feminine aesthetic, it was good to throw a little dirt on the cream-coloured costumes. But nowadays when trash rules, we feel a longing for the clear, full-screen beauty of the young Monica Vitti.