This was Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni's first film in colour, and was to be his last film in Italy for many years as after this he decamped first to the UK ("Blow Up") and thence to the US ("Zabriskie Point", "The Passenger") before eventually returning to native soil to make "The Mystery of Oberwald" in the 80's. It arrived as the end of a sequence of controversial but ground-breaking films detailing the modern condition - "L'Avventura", "La Notte" and "L'Eclisse" - all also featuring Monica Vitti who has the lead role here.
This subject of the film is the relationship between the modern industrial world and those that fit (or, in the case of the Vitti character, do not fit) within it. Antonioni conjures a strange beauty out of the factory-dominated landscapes and it's clear that his reaction is not (as we might automatically conclude in more environmentally troubled times) that industrial progress is necessarily a bad thing, but something a little more complicated. This ambiguous approach, allied with the extraordinary use of artificial colour (grass and fruit painted shades of grey and black) lends the film a compulsively mysterious air, at times almost tipping it into the territory of science fiction. At the centre of it is Vitti, who provides a superb performance (her co-star, a dubbed Richard Harris, received much less favourable reviews, but to my mind brings a stolid charmlessness that perfectly suits his character).
This is an excellent presentation of a wonderful but challenging film by the BFI; visually it has never looked better, and there is a very informative commentary by the Italian scholar David Forgacs which helps to illuminate the context in which the film was made.