Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue: Eight Reflections on Cinema

Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue: Eight Reflections on Cinema

Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue: Eight Reflections on Cinema

Michelangelo Red Antonioni Blue: Eight Reflections on Cinema


Michelangelo Antonioni, who died in 2007, was one of cinema’s greatest modernist filmmakers. The films in his black and white trilogy of the early 1960s—L’avventura, La Notte, L‘eclisse—are justly celebrated for their influential, gorgeously austere style. But in this book, Murray Pomerance demonstrates why the color films that followed are, in fact, Antonioni’s greatest works. Writing in an accessible style that evokes Antonioni’s expansive use of space, Pomerance discusses The Red Desert, Blow-Up, Professione: Reporter (The Passenger), Zabriskie Point, Identification of a Woman, The Mystery of Oberwald, Beyond the Clouds, and The Dangerous Thread of Things to analyze the director’s subtle and complex use of color. Infusing his open-ended inquiry with both scholarly and personal reflection, Pomerance evokes the full range of sensation, nuance, and equivocation that became Antonioni’s signature.


Where does violet end and lilac begin?

—Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art

In one of Antonioni’s films that I discuss in these pages, two characters meet by chance outside a theater after watching the same film. They talk about one another, about the chance of their encounter, but of the film they have not a word to say. a film can enter us and reside there, turning and changing through our biography and our fortune. To evoke a film, speak of it, try to write its long and ghostly presence: and especially an Antonioni film, one of the eight major works in color that he produced starting in 1964, after it became hopelessly apparent that color was his world: to face the growing fact of a film, honest as to its structure, its repetitions, its allusions and elusions, its tones, the way something suddenly becomes obvious that was invisible before, to address a film not only as subject material but as form, is my challenge here. That a story does not mean everything, indeed sometimes means nothing. That a revelation can be charged through the turn of a face from shadow into light, colored shadow into colored light. Colors, after all, are more than facts, more than indications. Color has resonance, descends into a past, causes us to remember and fall. To find— not the theme, not the statement, but— the song of the films, what they intimate and how they intimate it, not their formula but their personality.

“There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words,” wrote Wittgenstein (Tractatus 6.522). So, these eight meditations might have been a string of silences. It is always difficult to use language for coming to terms with a cinematic image, especially Antonioni’s images, brilliant . . .

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