"L'Avventura", "La Notte", "L'Eclisse" - Dir : M. Antonioni - 1960/62
Typically, I watched this trio of films set in 1960's Italy and directed by Michaelangelo Antonioni, out of order without having any prior knowledge of the production or release dates although there is general consensus that the trio ends with "L'Avventura" (see below), this is mainly because I like to choose films randomly and started with "La Notte" (Trans : "The Night") and ended with "L'Avventura" (Trans : "The Adventure") with "L'Eclisse" (Trans : "The Eclipse") in the middle, not that this particularly affects how they are perceived since they are unconnected apart from being set within the same social milieu of the upwardly mobile Italian middle classes in the immediate post war years.
What I find interesting more than anything else is the snapshot of Rome and Milan in the 60's, that, rather like Japan or most cities around the world caught up in the global conflict of World War II, for that matter, was seeking to reconstruct itself in readiness for the brave new world that awaited.
The films characters move between the jumble of the ancient and modern that is the center of Milan or Rome to the sleek brutalist modernity of the new, rising suburbs with their neat grid systems and Le Corbusier-inspired architecture.
Of the three, "L'Eclisse" is mostly a commentary on the aspirations of the young and educated of society, centering on social status and acquiring wealth in a ruthless fashion, as if this is a birthright - Alain Delons' character works in the adrenalin-charged atmosphere of the city stock exchange whilst living in a city apartment filled with expensive antique furniture and paintings, and the focus of his romantic interest is Monica Vitti, who has left her long-term partner at the start of the film, an older man who lives in a modern apartment in the newer outskirts of the city and who is wealthy but seems to show little or no interest in her.
The relationship between her and Delon's character is ultimately short-lived when she decides that as far as he is concerned, she is just another notch on his bedpost and for his part, he cannot tolerate the environs of the new outer city where she lives, which he feels is devoid of history, context and in his words "like being in foreign country", and Delon returns to his mistress and liaisons with prostitutes.
"La Notte" shifts focus to an older couple played by Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau but is set in the same milieu - the couple's relationship has started to breakdown and this is not helped by the intervention of Monica Vitti's character at a party they are attending, something that offers Mastroianni's character a diversion while his wife leaves the party and wanders off in to the night.
In the film's concluding scene Mastroianni's and Moreau's characters have a passionate reconciliation, set amongst the bunkers of an empty early morning golf course.
"L'Avventura" is probably the darkest of the 3 films and is generally regarded as the concluding film of the trio, and it certainly feels that way.
A boat trip, and again, who but the affluent could afford a motor launch, to a small island takes an unexpected turn when one of the passengers, a young woman, mysteriously disappears.
Monica Vitti, by now something of a muse to Antonioni, plays the woman whose relationship is also beginning to flounder and is propelled into a mission to find out what happened to the young woman, something that is never fully resolved, leaving the viewer with unanswered questions. This mission takes her to the mainland in search of news items and any clues - suspects are rounded up etc but possible reasons for the disappearance of the woman remain mysterious.
On the face of it the film is simply the story of tragic circumstances that could befall anyone, regardless of social status or wealth etc but it could also be viewed as a metaphor for the fragility of the outwardly secure lives of those with wealth and plenty of free time to spend enjoying themselves.