David Bordwell on the Restraint of L’avventura

The premiere screening of Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’avventura in 1960 was one of the most infamously divisive in Cannes Film Festival history. While Antonioni’s opaque characterizations and languorous pacing retain their ability to befuddle uninitiated viewers, these qualities also marked the film early on as a path-breaking work of modern European cinema. In the latest installment of Observations on Film Art, a Criterion Channel program in which professors David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson, and Jeff Smith examine formal elements of the medium through the work of great auteurs, Bordwell analyzes the elusive style that would become a trademark of the director’s career. Below, watch an excerpt from the episode, in which Bordwell explores the film’s meticulous visual compositions and the way Antonioni withholds narrative information that moviegoers are accustomed to receiving.

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