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Antonioni and the Arts

Posted on 07/12/2012

A study day devoted to the late Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007) took place on Friday, 26 October, in Egham, co-sponsored by HARC, SMLLC, Media Arts, and the Institut Français du Royaume-Uni. The centenary of the birth of this master of European modernist cinema was a chance to bring together a number of scholars and curators who have a particular interest in the interdisciplinary aspects of Antonioni’s oeuvre. Dr Laura Rascaroli (U. of Cork) and Dr John David Rhodes (U. of Sussex), who edited the 2011 volume, Antonioni: Centenary Essays, offered a novel perspective on the work of the Italian film-maker by focusing on the influence of art and architecture respectively. The two talks were preceded by a screening of two rare Antonioni documentaries: Gente del Po (1943-7) and Lo Sguardo di Michelangelo (2004). Documentaries are a very important but often less studied aspect of Antonioni’s production. They also ideally frame his career since Antonioni began as a documentary film maker and ended his cinematic career with his tribute to the master of the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo Buonarroti, in a short film of extreme beauty which helped the audience to reflect upon art and tradition. The general discussion that followed covered a number of fascinating topics relating to Antonioni’s practice, including his consistently ‘open’, physical engagement with the human figure, as compared, for example, with that of Jean-Luc Godard.

The second part of the study day was a lecture by film scholar and curator, Professor Dominique Païni (École du Louvre, Paris), who presented with slides his plans for the forthcoming centenary exhibition on Antonioni in his home-town of Ferrara. Prof. Païni revealed that the physical challenge of the exhibition space, the Renaissance Palazzo dei Diamanti, created the opportunity to present Antonioni’s work as a series of contrasts arising from the idea that cinema is, after all, narrative sculpture in movement, and that shapes are born out of the most basic contract, that of light and dark. Both the lecture and ensuing discussion brought into focus a series of important characteristics of the work of Antonioni: the identification of women and the nation, ideal masculinity and Italian art and tradition, the critique of humanism and the classical heritage, and the ambiguous relationship between Antonioni and Italy’s post-war tradition of social and political engagement (impegno) which characterised the work of many of his contemporaries working in film and literature.  

The entire event was recorded by the film-maker, Alessandro Zangirolami, and is available for viewing here

Dr. Giuliana Pieri (SMLLC), Ms. Eleonora Raspi (SMLLC), Prof. James S. Williams (SMLLC)



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