This article originally appeared in
July 31, 2007
Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni dies
By ERIC J. LYMAN
ROME -- Director Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the founders of modern
Italian cinema and an Oscar nominee for 1966's "Blowup," died late Monday
at his home in Rome at the age of 94.
Antonioni's family made the
announcement Tuesday, and as the
news spread across Italy, public
figures lined up to pay their respects
to the celebrated director. Director
Marco Bellocchio called Antonioni
"a pillar" of Italian cinema, and
Rome Mayor and film buff Walter
Veltroni said that "with Antonioni dies
not only one of the greatest directors
but also a master of modernity."
Antonioni -- who was also presented
with an honorary Oscar in 1995 --
was not prolific, producing only two
dozen features in a career that
spanned more than six decades.
But his influence on Italian cinema
is enormous, and he was regarded
as the main counterbalance to the
neorealism of his contemporaries
among Italian directors, such as Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and
Rather than identifying society's flaws by focusing on outcasts and the
working class as the neorealists did, Antonioni instead focused on the
country's elite, often exposing them as bored and aimless in films known for
their spare plots, limited dialogue, and long still takes.
Antonioni died on the same day as Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, and
the two men are said to have been great admirers of each other's work.
Bergman said "Blowup," an English-language film about a photographer
who stumbles on evidence of a murder, and 1961's "La Notte" (The Night),
which explores how the death of a family friend affects a couple's
relationship, were among the 20th century's "great masterpieces."
Antonioni was born Sept. 29, 1912, in the affluent northern Italian city of
Ferrara. He was graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in
economics, and he worked for a time as a bank teller, working part-time as a
film critic for the local newspaper in his free time.
In the 1930s, he moved to Rome, where he worked as an editorial secretary
at "Cinema," an entertainment magazine published by the Fascist
Entertainment Guild, where his boss was the son of Benito Mussolini, Italy's
Fascist leader. He turned to screenwriting during the early years of World
War II, collaborating with Roberto Rossellini on "Un Pilota Ritorna" (A Pilot
Returns). He was drafted to serve in the Italian Army but continued to write,
including a documentary on the Po Valley titled "Gente del Po" (The People
of the Po) in 1943.
On the strength of his documentary talents, he obtained financing to make
his first feature film, "Cronaca di un amore" (Story of a Love Affair), a saga of
doomed past lovers that focused on a B-list actress unable to control her life.
Antonioni's breakthrough came in 1960 with "L'Avventura" (The Adventure),
which explores existential malaise through a story based on a woman's
disappearance during a boating trip. Although the film was booed when it
was first screened at the Festival de Cannes, it went on to win the Jury Prize.
In 1964's "Il Desserto rosso"
(The Red Desert), his first color
film, the director offered an
equally stark landscape, using
stylized, intense colors that gave
the film an unnatural, acidic hue.
"Blowup," the director's first of Vanessa Redgrave in a park. It earned Antonioni Oscar nominations for
English-language film, was set
among the swinging London of
the '60s, with David Hemmings
starring as a hip fashion
photographer who unwittingly
captures images suggesting a
murder while shooting pictures
best director and best original screenplay, and its frank sexuality proved a
But when Antonioni traveled to America to film "Zabriskie Point," a critique of
the U.S. filmed in Death Valley, Calif., he failed to capture a similar sense of
Antonioni had been in poor
health since a 1985 stroke
left him unable to speak.
But he continued working,
most recently directing a
segment of the 2004 film
"Eros," which also featured
segments from Steven
Soderbergh and Wong Kar
Wai -- who were both more
than 45 years his junior.
He is survived by his wife,
Enrica. He had no children.
The city of Rome said his
body would lie in state
Wednesday at City Hall before a funeral scheduled for Thursday in Ferrara.
The Hollywood Reporter's Duane Byrge contributed to this report.
Mr. Antonioni on a film set in the 1960s.
Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
From left, Mr. Antonioni, Daria Halprin and Mark
Frechette on the set of the 1970 film "Zabriskie
Point." Photo: Photofest
Mr. Antonioni and his wife, Enrica, in 1995.
Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times