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Antonioni, Michelangelo

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Michelangelo AntonioniMichelangelo Antonioni

Antonioni, Michelangelo (1912-2007), Italian film director. Regarded by many as the most original Italian film-maker of his generation, Antonioni was born in Ferrara in northern Italy on September 29, 1912, and became the film critic on the local newspaper before moving to Rome in 1939. After making some innovative documentaries (1943-1950), he debuted in the feature film Cronaca di un Amore (Story of a Love Affair) in 1950, a low-key thriller that marked a decisive break with the prevailing Neo-Realism (see Italian Cinema).

Antonioni came to international attention with four films in the early 1960s—L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961; The Night), L’Eclisse (1962; The Eclipse), and Deserto Rosso (1964; Red Desert), using his young star and protegée Monica Vitti to embody his distinctive view of the pleasures and pains of modern life. The success of these films earned him a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) for three expensive international productions—Blow-Up (1966), Zabriskie Point (1969, co-written by Sam Shepard), and The Passenger (1975), an Italian/Spanish/French co-production starring Jack Nicholson; he also made a documentary on China (Chung Kuo, 1972), which was denounced by the Chinese authorities, then in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. In 1982 he directed Identificazione di una Donna (Identification of a Woman), which he also co-wrote and edited.

A severe stroke in 1985 seemed to have terminated Antonioni’s career, but with Par-delà les Nuages (1995; Beyond the Clouds) he proved that his talents were undiminished. All his films are intensely pictorial, make use of landscape, and show characters facing moral dilemmas in a world that has lost its traditional bearings. Contrary to widespread belief, his films are not necessarily exercises in pessimism; rather, they express a scepticism towards moral pieties and an existential belief in seizing moments of happiness when they present themselves. In 1994 Antonioni was given an honorary Academy Award in recognition of his influence and style. He died on July 30, 2007 in Rome.

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