Il Grido (1957)

28 02 2008

After a short string of consistent, but fairly unremarkable melodramas, Michelangelo Antonioni crafts one of the most important transition pieces in the history of cinema. Finally, we begin seeing him shying away from a typical plot structure, and the much-talked about themes of his later work are thrown into play as well. It’s far from perfect, but amazing considering what Antonioni made before in comparison to what he made after.

Aldo has just been informed by his lover that her husband is dead. To him, this is great news as it ends a seven year period of secretive love. His lover, Irma, is surprsingly far less optimistic and turns down his marriage proposal, latter admitting to another affair. Stunned, he leaves town and begins to wander aimlessly (with his daughter) from town to town, reigniting past flames. His many flings leave him unsatisfied and lead him back to his feelings of perpetual loneliness.

As mentioned before, this is Antonioni’s first real attempt at his own style and the results are not as technically established as his later films but his insight into the human relationships is as profound as ever. It’s impossible to not see this films influence on stuff like The Brown Bunny and Broken Flowers, both of which pretty much follow the exact same narrative structure. Unfortunately, this film is told a bit more “straightforwardly” and is about as plot-driven as Antonioni would get, excluding his earlier films.

“That” Antonioni aesthetic is setup against a much more gritty environment, reflective of the neo-realist films of the time and the result looks a bit like a Bela Tarr film. I have always brushed off Antonioni-Tarr comparison; Where as Antonioni is perspective and attentive (not to mention real…) Tarr is overly-philosophical and feels artificial. They couldn’t be more different in my mind, but the gritty Italian homes of this film do bring to mind Tarr’s film, at least more than Antonioni’s usual picturesque landscapes. That’s not a criticism as I still see this film dealing with real human problems. Through all the turmoil, Aldo returns to Irma (or at least attempts to), as his feelings for her continue to reoccur, so does the poignantly-layered score. The ending is abrupt and silly, but the events leading up to it are bizarre and ambigious as the ending of L’Eclisse. Not Antonioni’s best, but a great film in any case.

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