Red Desert

  • Wed Sept 26
    7:15 • WSH
Red Desert

introduced by Prof Karen Pinkus (Romance Studies)

Michelangelo Antonioni
Monica Vitti, Richard Harris

Since the emergence of the medium, filmmakers have been carefully negotiating the territory between traditional narrative arts, like fiction or drama, and the principles of visual aesthetics, drawn from the history of painting and sculpture. Red Desert cleaves more to the latter: It is practically a painting on film. The camera picks up minute metaphors provided by the industrial age for the distress of an Everywoman (Vitti). Deserted by a group of cowardly friends at the sight of a plague-ridden freighter, she watches their bodies dissolve in the city’s fog and wanders through the rest of the movie from one desultory meeting to the next. The cinematography, which fights to capture the depth of color on Antonioni’s sets, was influenced by the director’s interest in the psycho-physiology of visual reception, particularly the response of neurotic patients to color while under the influence of mescaline. The visual spectacle is the drama; the eye of the camera serves as the most interesting “character” in the film. "Antonioni’s first color film after eight black-and-white features in fifteen years, Red Desert is more a series of paintings unfurled in time than the kind of dramatic spectable we have been calling a movie for the past half century... the most stunning conjunction of meaning and mise-en-scene in all the cinematic literature of Michelangelo Antonioni.” (Village Voice)


35mm color
1 hour 56 minutes
release year/country
1964 Italy