Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘Red Desert’ (1964)

This is now firmly in the top ten. What a joy of a movie visually. I find Antonioni’s use of colour extraordinary. Yes I can see the comparisons with Morandi, especially in the title series and with Tapies. The fact that Antonioni has also painted the landscape to enhance the colour in certain scenes is incredible. I understand that some of the trees and landscape were painted black to enhance the contrast with Giuliana’s (Monica Vitti) green coat.

The rust and the reds against the grey industrial landscape stand out with such boldness and strength, it is like someone has dragged a paintbrush across the screen. The pipes and steam of the factories merge in with the fog, surfaces, polluted riverways and ships that churn past add to the tension of the narrative if not the mental confusion of Giulana.

I want to watch it again. I want to paint it. He is an artist that has closely observed the industrialisation the ‘bigger machine’ of late 20thC Italy. He has found a rich and vivid beauty in a desolated brutal landscape.

The yellow smoke lingers on at the end.


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