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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 3 September 2011
Il Deserto Rosso was Antonioni's 1st colour film, and a key work following the alienation trilogy, where the divorce between technology and morality, and the relationship between people and their physical environment, continues in this film.As in his previous films, the story is quite simple and revolves around a woman,Giuliana(Vitti),in industrial Ravenna, who has had a nervous breakdown and tried to commit suicide but,although married and a mother,is now embarking on a tentative affair with Corrado(Harris).Guiliana cannot adapt to her surroundings,the city's grim industrial landscape weighs heavily on her.This is reinforced by a frightening electronic soundtrack and Antonioni's enhanced bleak rendering of the painted grey marshlands.Plasticity and material weight,replace dramatic psychology,story and character development.

Colour emerges as a central element in the film, mirroring her subjective mental states.Colour is integrally linked to character, as was landscape in the trilogy.Scenes are dominated by a single colour or colours.There is also the use of desaturated colours, and the flattening of space by tele-photo lenses.Giuliana is sharply focussed against unfocussed backgrounds or foregrounds.Corrado wants to recruit workers to set up industry in Patagonia and Guiliana catches his eye.He has no roots,is always on the move but feels a kinship and sexual interest with the lost,wandering Guiliana.However their consummation, brings no satisfaction to either.Harris is buttoned-up emotionally and physically, and is dubbed.He acts as a foil to the amazing central performance of Vitti.

The only use of naturalistic colour in the film, is when Guiliana tells Valerio, her son, a story of a young girl on a desert island, visited by a mystery boat, and with the singing of sirens,her only way to escape her unspecified depression and malaise.There is a striking beauty to this film based as it is on a new vocabulary of cinema, with his expressive use of colour like a painter contrasting natural with artificial colours,the formalised framing of coloured objects,the colour balance,the beautiful imagery,the long tracking shots and use of fog to isolate groups of people.This film is not an attack on technology,as there was much sense of beauty of industrial technology from Antonioni:'It's the people who don't function properly,not the machines'.Mankind has to learn to fly like birds do around the toxic yellow smoke.A great influence on Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
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