DVD, Dir: Michelangelo Antonioni, with David Hemmings and Vanessa Redgrave
Antonioni . . . yeah, alienation, ennui . . . whatever.
Visually, it is something else: nuns and guardsmen at the edges of a frenetically and somewhat joylessly swinging London. There are no norms, no morality, no certainty of what is real and what is a mimed game of tennis.
Hemmings is not just a professional but also a compulsive photographer. It’s all the same to him if he’s snapping dossers in the spike, Veruschka in the studio (while wearing the same filthy clothes) or lovers in the park: they’re all going in his glossy book. His energy and youth are engaging, but beyond that he has no likeable qualities. His camera does his looking for him: through his lens he thinks he sees a murder. He becomes a different – almost serious – person as he interrogates his photographs.
For me Antonioni’s films are often charmless, in the same way that Sinatra’s singing is tuneless: intruiging, but there is something missing at the heart of them. Maybe it’s the sound quality or Antonioni’s directions to the actors, but even when they’re supposed to be happy his characters seem to be forcing it. They are amoral, predatory, as likely to lie as tell the truth, aimless, but without those moments of joy that, say, Monica Vitti could occasionally bring to an Antonioni film.
Well, I guess that’s the point. It’s a questioning and cynical rather than a celebratory look at contemporary society. New and exciting and exuberant . . . so why all those zombies watching the Yardbirds? They don’t dance to the music, but they do fight to get a bit of broken guitar.
I probably watched it 50 years too late as well. Some scenes could only remind me that this was the kind of milieu in which Jimmy Savile operated.