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Thread: Unresolved Stories and Open-Ended Narratives

  1. #31
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    Well, but I would say that L'AVENTURA's not being "a complete action" is one thing, and the meandering, uneventful sequence of scenes, which confuse one's sense of time, is another, and is the distinctive and original element. Of course it's philistine, to react so negatively. However, it's only natural, and something we sometimes miss today, people being harder to shock, for there to be an adverse reaction to something stylistically revolutionary, though booing continues for one reason or another at Cannes. Penelope Houston's description of the L'AVVENTURA Cannes screening, if this GUARDIAN obituary is what you refer to, isn't very detailed. Or does she expound further on it elsewhere?

    Apparently jeering audiences at debuts of film classics at the French festival has led to BAM-cinematek just this month staging a series, "Booed at Cannes". It may be fun to contemplate, but if it's so common, it also becomes less significant or interesting. Surely the reaction you're interested in for L'AVVENTURA is that it induces puzzlement rather than outrage, that it's stimulating rather than a turn-off. Mike D'Angelo just recently commented during his 2013 Cannes tweets that booing when the director is present at a Cannes debut screening, which happened twice this year when he was present, is particularly rude and offensive (and insensitive) behavior. An account says that Antonioni and Vitti both "fled" the notorious screening, Vitti "in tears." It must have been awful for them; being present at a first screening always difficult for filmmakers and stars, like a play's "opening night."

    Houston's account is that L'AVVENTURA rose very high very fast in the ranks of most admired films of all times, but then dropped, and now is so far below as to be "out of the money" (a crass way of putting it, by the way). This I don't quite understand. I still like the film. A marvelous film by a marvelous director, one of the greatest of all time, one of the most original and most truly "modern".

    Whatever the particular audience reaction at that Cannes screening, the Festival awarded it the Jury Prize of course, for its "remarquable contribution à la recherche d'un nouveau langage cinématographique," "remarkable contribution to the search for a new cinematic language." A phrase that's as vague and puzzling in its way as the film, and therefore perhaps wonderfully appropriate.

    Going by the BAM series, apparently L'ECLISSE, another marvelous Antoinioni film, was also booed at Cannes, along with THE MOTHER AND THE WHORE, THE SOFT SKIN, L'ARGENT, TAXI DRIVER -- honorable company.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-28-2013 at 07:56 PM.

  2. #32
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    There is another piece where Houston writes about the Cannes audience's behavior making it impossible for her to appreciate the film, until she watched the film again at the London FF and it was a revelation. She describes people yelling "Cut!" to complain about shots being held too long. Interesting to note that Antonioni's 50s films have longer ASLs than L'avventura or any of his more modernist films. I am consciously trying to acknowledge the challenges that Antonioni's films present to audiences and to really understand this thoroughly rather than think of them as lacking sophistication. I think insufficient resolution (about Anna's disappearance, about where Sandro and Claudia stand at the end, etc.) and scenes that don't forward the plot (there is a novelistic concentration on peripheral characters) are the main but not the only reasons why some people reject or don't/wouldn't like Antonioni's films.

  3. #33
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    I get it that you're interested in how Antonioni is hard to follow and not that people mocked or rejected the film. There are people like me who don't care that much about resolutions sometimes and are more interested in the process and style than the outcome or ending; in this case specifically I think it's obvious well before the end that L'AVVENTURA isn't going to be resolved and is more about the aimlessness of these people's lives.

    Is the other more detailed Penelope Houston piece online? Anyway what is is called, what date?
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-29-2013 at 12:22 AM.

  4. #34
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    I found a long quote from Houston's original review in the book "Film festivals: culture, people, and power on the global screen
    By Cindy H. Wong" page 107: http://books.google.com/books?id=-yL...ouston&f=false

    So, may I say that the fact that you figure the theme of the film to be human aimlessness and that you realize that this theme is coherent with meandering characters, temps mort, and insufficient resolution provides a way to justify Antonioni's refusal to provide us with conventional, time-tested pleasures? Perhaps that this thematic completeness that you find in the film compensates for the lack of resolution, for the open-endedness of the plot? Can this thematic congruence evoke in you the sense of finality one usually get by having questions answered and conflicts resolved?
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 05-29-2013 at 02:18 AM.

  5. #35
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    I hadn't worked it out that well but I'd say yes.

    That looks like an interesting book (Cindy Wong) and one I ought to dip into. She says some nice thins about Cannes, I see. I'll have to hunt for the part about Penelope Houston's L'AVVENTURA experiences.

    Your theme also makes me think of John Barth's book CHIMERA, an ingenious work of metafiction from the early Seventies which grows out of the 1001 NIGHTS, and has the idea of a series of interrupted stories told successively to save Scheherazade from execution. These are "unresolved stories and open-ended narratives." In this the story-teller interacts directly with the characters, who have never heard of the story. Barth is not interested so much just in the stories themselves but in the genres of the stories, the function of the stories in relation to each other, and the relations between the teller of the tale and the tale and the characters. The storyteller uses the now famous phrase "The key to the treasure is the treasure." Which I associate with the idea that the journey is the destination. Or, to put it another way, the fun is not the result but the process.

    By intentionally writing stories that deny the reader closure and that throw him/her back to the text, Barth places pleasure in the progressing rather than in the end of the process for the pleasure of getting lost in the funhouse transcends the need for a traditional or linear ending.
    --Abstract of a doctoral dissertation about Barth, LOST IN THE FUNOUSE, and CHIMERA.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-29-2013 at 10:37 AM.

  6. #36
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    Right. You clearly understand what my topic is. Barth's book and Your comments about it are interesting to me. I also remember you mentioning your upbringing, exposure to arts and such, and your early receptivity to all kinds of culture. I am also curious about the resistance to works like Antonioni's, from people who may not be so accepting of experiments in cinema, which L'avventura certainly was 50+ years ago.

  7. #37
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    I do see what your topic is and it's an interesting one, though I don't quite follow the importance to your study of the negative reactions toward Antonioni's innovations.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-30-2013 at 05:42 PM.

  8. #38
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    The negative reactions, and I prefer to think of them more as resistances based on the subversion of normative narrative expectations, are symptomatic of what Antonioni's films do that is truly innovative and one should pay attention to all the effects of what one studies, no?

  9. #39
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    I guess so, yes.

  10. #40
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    I am also interested in "teaching Antonioni" some day. I am interested in figuring out how to prepare your average 19 year old college student to appreciate a film like L'avventura. Like the vast majority of film history teachers, I have found it easier and more convenient (because of duration) to show Breathless, or 400 Blows, or Hiroshima Mon Amour when covering modernist cinema in general film history courses. Besides it's a big world out there and there's limited time available to show films from the major national cinemas. And when it comes to Italian Cinema, we tend to show neo-realist films like Bicycle Thieves and Rome Open City. But someday I want to face "the Antonioni challenge".

  11. #41
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    I wonder if one can really teach people to like anything. To know all is to forgive all, they say.

  12. #42
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    I don't think I can teach people to like anything. But I think I can find a way to show students why Antonioni is one of the great masters of the cinema, or what is it that makes him unique and innovative.

  13. #43
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    Jolly good. If they buy that, then how can they not like him?

  14. #44
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    I think it is easier to appreciate the compositional beauty and poetry of Antonioni's images, the way he creates relationships or rhymes between characters and elements in the landscape, natural and man-made, that are truly visual metaphors, the editing of certain scenes, the way Anna dissolves faster than Sandro in the last scene in which we see her, etc. One thing is to show this to 19 year olds and teach them to recognize Antonioni's artistry; and another thing is to expect most of them to enjoy watching all 2 hours 23 minutes of it in one sitting.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 06-03-2013 at 02:00 AM.

  15. #45
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    And yet when I was a 19-year-old nothing delighted me more: that's what I mean by saying you can't teach anybody to love any works of art. Or you can, perhaps. This is why I have great admiration for high school teachers in public schools: they must "sell" their subjets. The assumption is that in college, which I taught -- only once high school, very briefly -- students come to your class open to your subject, at least if it is not a required course, relatively speaking, anyway. Mainly, I think, the thing to do is to awaken those who can love your subject to its manifold pleasures. Those who can't will have to sit quiet.

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