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ECLIPSE (Eclisse, L’) (director/writer: Michelangelo Antonioni; screenwriter: Tonino Guerra; cinematographer: Gianni Di Venanzo; editor: Eraldo Da Roma; music: Giovanni Fusco; cast: Alain Delon (Piero), Monica Vitti (Vittoria), Francisco Rabal (Riccardo), Louis Seigner (Ercoli), Lilla Brignone (Vittoria’s Mother), Rossana Rory (Anita), Mirella Ricciardi (Marta); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Raymond Hakim/Robert Hakim; The Criterion Collection; 1962-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)
“Antonioni’s love story is much like a sci-fi story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Eclipse is Michelangelo Antonioni’s last leg of his doomed relationships trilogy that was preceded by L’Avventura and La Notte. It’s an almost plotless tale but is a highly passionate and fulfilling one, as co-written by Antonioni and Tonino Guerra. It covers the master’s usual concerns of loneliness, urban alienation, the burden of living in a cold-hearted materialistic world and mankind’s inability to communicate with each other. It’s languorously paced with sparse dialogue and often pausing for long moments of silence while creating a heavily symbolic meaning; the title refers to the erasing of emotions between men and women in the contemporary industrial Western world. Antonioni’s black-and-white film features unforgettable scenes in the crowded and frenetic Rome Stock Market, of the rejected longtime lover to no avail chasing on foot the woman who just told him she no longer loves him and the haunting closing shots of the recent would-be lovers in a city bereft of people who are unable to connect in the insular worlds they inhabit.

In Rome, a young translator Vittoria (Monica Vitti) after spending a night feuding with her bookish and possessive boyfriend of the last four years, Riccardo (Francisco Rabal), breaks off their relationship but is unable to articulate exactly why. The sensitive attractive blonde takes pleasure by walking alone among the pines of Rome at dawn, by putting on a blackface and playing with her bored housewife friends at being an African native and by flying in a small plane above the Euganean hills. After the breakup Vittoria moves into her widowed mother’s (Lilla Brignone) apartment and visits her while she gambles at the Stock Exchange. Mom is joyous over her winnings but in a later scene of sheer pandemonium, when the market crashes and she loses her shirt, a bitterness takes hold of her as she wants to blame someone so lashes out at the socialists. In the pits of the Stock Exchange, Vittoria meets mom’s successful, cocky, young and handsome stockbroker, Piero (Alain Delon), and is seduced by him into beginning a relationship but never convinces herself that she loves him enough to give him all her love. There’s not much they share in common but a physical attraction, as he’s shallow, uncomplicated and materialistic while she’s brooding, searching and romantic. She believes the only way to put to rest her doubts is to sleep with him, and she goes with him to his parents’ empty plush apartment. Afterwards they make plans to meet again that night and for every night thereafter–for as long as their love will endure–but, in the end, she turns down his marriage offer and chooses to be alone.

It’s Antonioni’s probing, poignant and lyrical essay on romance, that brilliantly examines the fears and inner drives both sexes have that either brings them together or pushes them apart in a changing world that is anything but stable. What’s there, like good poetry addressed to the mind, is not easy to get to or will it elicit the same response for each viewer, but for those who accept the director’s challenge to work hard at it there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Antonioni provocatively suggests that if we as human beings can’t explain why we are so psychologically tortured and can’t find an escape from our sadness, then what makes us think that we are also not capable of blowing each other up in this nuclear age we so unconsciously inhabit. In other words, Antonioni’s love story is much like a sci-fi story.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”