Michelangelo Antonioni dies at age 94 in Rome, 2007. Though a director since 1950, it was his trilogy L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962) that made him a solid art-house fixture for the better part of two decades. Blow-Up (1966), Zabriskie Point (1970) and The Passenger (1975) were among Antonioni’s other more notable movies, with audiences and critics—and fellow filmmakers—often split about the quality of his work. To some, he was an acquired taste at best and a bloody bore at worst. Others lauded his elegantly composed shots, spare visuals and enigmatic endings. Here are a few remarks about his cinematic style, from Antonioni himself as well as his peers.
I never discuss the plots of my films. I never release a synopsis before I begin shooting. How could I? Until the film is edited, I have no idea myself what it will be about. And perhaps not even then. Perhaps the film will only be a mood, or a statement about a style of life. Perhaps it has no plot at all. I depart from the script constantly. I may film scenes I had no intention of filming; things suggest themselves on location, and we improvise. I try not to think about it too much. Then, in the cutting room, I take the film and start to put it together and only then do I begin to get an idea of what it is about.
— Michelangelo Antonioni
L’Avventura gave me one of the most profound shocks I've ever had at the movies…Antonioni's film changed my perception of cinema, and the world around me, and made both seem limitless. I was mesmerized by L'Avventura and by Antonioni's subsequent films, and it was the fact that they were unresolved in any conventional sense that kept drawing me back. They posed mysteries—or rather the mystery—of who we are, what we are, to each other, to ourselves, to time. You could say that Antonioni was looking directly at the mysteries of the soul. That's why I kept going back. I wanted to keep experiencing these pictures, wandering through them. I still do.
— Martin Scorsese
Antonioni is the only important director I have nothing good to say about. He bores me; he's so solemn and humorless.
— François Truffaut
Antonioni was like a father figure to me. I worked with him because I wanted to be a film director and I thought I could learn from a master. He's one of the few people I know that I ever really listened to.
— Jack Nicholson, star of Antonioni’s The Passenger (1975)
I was a little bit disappointed because I felt that the character [in La Notte], this writer suffering a crisis, was a little bit conventional. Perhaps I would have preferred him to be more angry, more cynical, but then I probably wouldn't have been able to play him anyway. I suppose I felt that I had an example of a writer before me: my friend, Ennio Flaiano. And somehow or other, I don't know why, I felt that this writer should be like him, which obviously wasn't what Antonioni intended. So there was a sort of incomprehension between me and the director. As I went along I lost of that joy, that enthusiasm I had felt which had made me want to do the film. This was the state of mind I was while I was making the film. I would liked to be closer to Antonioni but it wasn't possible. I don't know if it was my fault or whether it was because he (and it is something he has always said) prefers not to have much interaction with the actors.
— Marcello Mastroianni
He's done two masterpieces; you don't have to bother with the rest. One is Blow-Up, which I've seen many times, and the other is La Notte, also a wonderful film, although that's mostly because of the young Jeanne Moreau. In my collection I have a copy of Il Grido and damn what a boring movie it is. So devilishly sad, I mean. You know, Antonioni never really learned the trade. He concentrated on single images, never realizing that film is a rhythmic flow of images, a movement. Sure, there are brilliant moments in his films. But I don't feel anything for L’Avventura, for example. Only indifference. I never understood why Antonioni was so incredibly applauded. And I thought his muse, Monica Vitti, was a terrible actress.
— Ingmar Bergman
It seems that boredom is one of the great discoveries of our time. If so, there's no question but that [Antonioni] must be considered a pioneer.
— Luchino Visconti