Red Desert (1964)

This was possibly not the best thing I could’ve watched tonight given the circumstances; yesterday was a day of appalling hot weather in Sydney, as a result of which the house was so hot it was almost impossible to sleep. So I didn’t really have the full brain function this evening that I probably needed to really take this in. I did my best, though I will confess to pausing the film about halfway through for about 15 minutes just to rest and see if I could come to a bit more… as such, if I wasn’t as caught up in the film as I’d have liked, it wasn’t entirely Antonioni’s fault. Notable as his first colour film; what struck me, though, was the comparative drabness of the thing—for some reason I’d thought it would be, you know, bursting with colour and life, I don’t know why—as if he’d gone out of his way to look like he wasn’t doing anything special with the full palette (even though there are stories of him painting fields and trees to get the colour he wanted, this artifice didn’t strike me as obvious)… which, in some ways, is actually the remarkable thing he does with it, cos the predominant greyness and visual flatness (lots of telephoto lens work here) kind of visually represents the point of the film, how there is a certain beauty to be found in the modernisation and industrialisation of the world (here, specifically the north of Italy; there’s an interesting interview with Antonioni on the Criterion disc in which he describes a row of factories facing a pine forest and how he prefers the former cos they’re a sign of human presence), but there’s a bleakness in that beauty that shouldn’t be forgotten either (on which note the film ends in quite chilling fashion), and not everyone is equally well-adjusted to the changes in the world that modernity brings with it. I think I liked it despite the difficulties I had with it, though it’s probably not as good as the famous trilogy that preceded it; I will need to rewatch at some point when my brain is a bit more operational. Incidentally, the film’s trailer must get some kind of award for gross misrepresentation, adding a bit of jolly underscore music not in the film and making it almost look like some sort of sex comedy…

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