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Monday, 4 November 2013

Festa: Fellini& Antonioni


This is a post about Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. 
Both were eminent directors (and auteurs) of Italian cinema. Both lived in the same country around the same time (Antonioni, born in 1912, made films from 1950 to 1995; Fellini, born in 1920, made films from 1950 to 1990). And both made films about the rich/ the upper-class/ intellectuals, at least in "Blowup" and "La notte" by Antonioni and "8 1/2" and "La dolce vita" by Fellini. 
And yet, there are fundamental differences. Antonioni's films, to me, are often 'quiet' or repressed, with few sounds and movements. His actors and actresses tend to walk slowly or stay still, demure, and immersed in thoughts, and the camera doesn't move often, at least in "Blowup" and "La notte" and "Il deserto rosso" (the 3rd one of which I watched a few months ago, without finishing). Fellini's films, in contrast, have lots of movements (of the camera and of the actors) and sounds (music, voices and all sorts of noises), at least in "8 1/2" and "La dolce vita". Antonioni's films often have a realistic look though they're elusive in meaning. Fellini's films are a blend of reality with fantasy, memories and dreams. Or, as Antonioni put it himself, Fellini's films are concerned with the outer life of people while his are more concerned with their inner lives (which, interestingly enough, can also be said about Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky).
In short they have often been seen as opposites, even rivals, that people sometimes ask "Are you a Fellini person or an Antonioni person?" (according to http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2012/03/federico-michelangelo-201203#)
What I've found most striking, however, after watching some of their films, is the contrast in their depiction of parties. Put it this way, Fellini's parties can be summed up in 1 word: decadence. People drink and dance and jump and strip and tear up pillows and throw things around and destroy stuff and climb on each other and hook up with each other and do all sort of idiotic things they can think of, for fun. It's a world where people have too much money and too little to do and thus become destructive and self-destructive, and squander money for pleasures. It's different in the world of Antonioni. His parties are to be described with another word: ennui. People walk around aimlessly, meet and talk to each other in a listless, disinterested way and despite being together, they don't seem to connect to each other. In short, like Fellini's people, they also have too much money and too little to do, but on the contrary, they don't have fun, they don't enjoy themselves. This is very clear in "La notte", but in "Blowup" there's a similar scene where a band's performing rock music in front of a passive, lifeless crowd who look just like zombies.
(The associations may be wrong or entirely irrelevant, but somehow my mind connects Fellini's orgiastic parties with those in Fitzgerald's "The great Gatsby" and Antonioni's lifeless parties with those in Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina"). 
In short, these 2 contemporary filmmakers belonged to the same period and depicted pretty much the same things- the wealthy elite's idleness, shallowness and sense of aimless existence, in opposite ways, seen most clearly in the parties. And it worked both ways.

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