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L’Eclisse – The Criterion Collection #278 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 17, 2014 by  



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“L’Eclisse” is a Michelangelo Antonioni masterpiece and is a piece of Italian cinema that is deserving in every cineaste’s collection.  Highly recommended!

Image courtesy of © 1991 Investing Establishment.  2014 The Criterion Collection. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: L’Eclisse – The Criterion Collection #278

YEAR OF FILM: 1962

DURATION: 110 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Black and White, Italian LPCM 1.0

COMPANY: THE CRITERION COLLECTION

RELEASE DATE: June 10, 2014

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

Written by Michelangelo Antonioni and Toni Guerra

Scene Collaborator: Elio Bartolini, Ottiero Ottieri

Produced by Raymond Hakim, Robert Hakim

Music by Giovanni Fusco

Cinematography by Gianni Di Venanzo

Edited by Eraldo Da Roma

Production Design by Piero Poletto

Costume Design by Bice Brichetto, Gitt Magrini

Starring:

Monica Vitti as Vittoria

Alain Delon as Piero

Francisco Rabali as Riccardo

Louis Seigner as Ercoli

Lilla Brignone as Vittoria’s mother

Rossana Rory as Anita

Mirella Ricciardi as Marta

The concluding chapter of Michelangelo Antonioni’s informal trilogy on contemporary malaise (following L’avventura and La notte), L’eclisse tells the story of a young woman (Monica Vitti) who leaves one lover (Francisco Rabal) and drifts into a relationship with another (Alain Delon). Using the architecture of Rome as a backdrop for the doomed affair, Antonioni achieves the apotheosis of his style in this return to the theme that preoccupied him the most: the difficulty of connection in an alienating modern world.

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In 1962, Michelangelo Antonioni (who had earned the nickname “the Master of Alienation”) released his third film, L’Eclisse (also known as “The Eclipse”), as part of his alienation trilogy.

The Italian modernist director was known for his radical new style, not following any convention of filmmaking and most of all, characters and events are disconnected.  The first part of the trilogy “L’avventura” (1960) was an international success and would introduce the world to the actress Monica Vitti, a woman who would appear as the main character in several of his films.  Antonioni returned with “La Notte” (1961) starring Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni which focused on the slow death of a marriage and final of the trilogy “L’Eclisse” would focus on the alienation of man in the modern world.

Known for his long takes but artistically capturing the surroundings of a location, Antonioni’s “L’Eclisse” was a winner of the Jury Special Prize at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival and nominated for the Palme d’Or. Needless to say, when watching Antonioni’s films, these are films that are not your typical films and therefore was either applauded or booed.  “L’Eclisse” is a big example of a film which you watch without expectation and you just take in the acting, the cinematography and then you think afterward, what Antonioni was trying to accomplish.   In this case, a disconnect with love.

L’Eclisse is about a woman named Vittoria (played by Monia Vitti).  A woman who has broken off a relationship with novelist Riccardo (Francisco Rabal).  We see through their time together that she is frustrated and has had enough, while for him, he is not emotionally attached to her but probably a man who just enjoys the sex.  There is no emotional attachment to this relationship and literally their love has run dry.

Needless to say, that she leaves him and goes to visit her mother at the Rome Stock Exchange and similar to her relationship, mother and daughter’s relationship seems quite dry.  Her mother seems more interesting in making money and making sure her young stockbroker Piero (played by Alain Delon) makes money.  And as far as Piero is concern, he has his eyes on his client’s daughter….Vittoria.

But can these two disconnected characters find love within one another?

VIDEO:

“L’Eclisse” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio in black and white).  According to Criterion, this new, high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from two 35mm composite fine-grain master positives.  Thousands of instances of dirt, debris and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System.  The picture quality is very well-done.  On my original DVD review, I mentioned that there was dust and scratches that can be seen but it seems with this Blu-ray release, those are not as evident and felt picture quality and a cleaner presentation was much more improved for this HD release.

Black levels are dark and white and gray contrast is sharp and looks fantastic when compared to the previous “L’Eclisse” DVD release from the Criterion Collection.  You can actually see much more detail in surroundings and also character closeups.  This is the best I have ever seen of this film and Antonioni fans will enjoy the overall picture quality.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

As for audio, audio is presented in LPCM 1.0  and according to Criterion, the audio was mastered at 24-bit from various 35mm optical track prints and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss and crackle.

Audio is in Italian with English subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“L’Eclisse” comes with the following special features:

  • Audio Commentary – On disc one, there is audio commentary by Richard Pena (the program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York).  Pena is very well-versed with Antonioni’s work and does a good job of explaining his thoughts of what Antonioni is trying to project with each scene and action.
  • Michelangelo Antonioni: The Eye that changed Cinema – (55:47) A documentary on disc two focusing on the life and career of Michelangelo Antonioni.  A look at the various movies he has directed, the talent he worked with and also some scenes that were not used in previous films.  We get to see various interviews with Antonioni, various talent and also, Michelangelo Antonioni accepting major awards from various awards shows.
  • Elements of a Landscape –  (21:58) A featurette on disc two from 2004 about Michelangelo Antonioni and the film L’Eclisse featuring Italian film critic and scholar Adriano Apra and Atonioni’s longtime friend Carlo di Carlo.

EXTRAS:

“L’Eclisse – The Criterion Collection #278” comes with a 30-page booklet featuring the following essays: “A Vigilance of Desire: Antonioni’s L’Eclisse” by author Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Antonioni and Vitti” by Gilberto Perez (professor of film studies at Sarah Lawrence College and also an author) and an excerpt from a spring 1962 issue of “Film Culture” by Antonioni titled “Making a Film is My Way of Life”.

The Blu-ray release comes with both the Blu-ray and a DVD version of the film and special features.

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“L’Eclisse” is one of those films in which a viewer can definitely watch and each person probably can come up with a different answer or something similar to what another person is thinking.

For me, Vittoria is a woman who has dated far too many men who have not had this emotional attachment to her.  She’s a beautiful woman but deep inside, she’s emotionless.  Why?  One can go deeper and think, who are the men in her life?  Where is her father?  How has she been treated?  And is she suspicious of men that try to get close to her?  And why is she emotionally detached?  There are very few moments in the film where see Vittoria smile and relaxed.  May it be a scene where she becomes an African native and just dances and has fun, another scene where she just watches a plane coming down for a landing or a scene where she sees a dog and just laughs.  Perhaps what we are seeing is Vittoria wanting to be in another place but now.  Where her life is hearing about her mother want money, seeing men who talk about money, have material things and look at her as only as a plaything.

As for Pioro, he is a cocky stockbroker who has made a lot of money in his career and is attracted to Vittoria.  But similar to Vittoria, he is also somewhat emotionally detached as we see in one scene, a drunkard steals his nice convertible and he doesn’t seem that all bothered by it.   It seems as if he is hoping he can get lucky with Vittoria more than anything.   In fact, when police find his car in a river bank with the dead drunkard inside, not once does he show any emotion towards the man who died in his car, all he can think about is selling it and buying a new car.

But it goes far beyond these two characters, for example at the Rome Stock Exchange, we see the stock brokers in frenzy and then taking a moment of silence of a death of their colleague and then back again to their way of life.  This is similar to Vittoria where we see her at rare times leaving her state of coldness and we get a glimpse of happiness.

And then the character of Marta, a new friend of Vittoria and a woman who is from Italy but was raised in Kenya and now back in Italy and feels disconnected.  Her home features pictures and relics from Kenya as if  she truly misses the environment but not the people but not the people at all (in fact, she makes fun of them) and sees herself living a life in Kenya with importance. But now back home, she is now a person who has lost that feeling of importance and feels uncomfortable.

Antonioni’s “L’Eclisse” is a film about disconnection and similar to his previous two films, a person’s view of this detachment can be seen be applauded because we rarely see all characters in a film portrayed in this manner or because of that, one can be disenchanted by it.  What I enjoyed about “L’Eclisse” is that there are fragments placed within the storyline that is made for people to think.  May it be the Rome stock market or the architecture of Rome in the background or how the lamp lights look artistic during the night.  But also,  how Antonioni defies normalcy, defies closure and presents his film the way he wants to without following the rules that most filmmakers go by.  It’s somewhat of a rebellious film but it fits within the confines of his trilogy on modern malaise.

There is so much too appreciate about “L’Eclisse” and needless to say, it all comes down to the viewer and what they are able to appreciate.  If one is thinking this will be your typical romantic film, those who have not seen an Antonioni film or “L’avventura” or “La Notte” are going to quickly learn that “L’Eclisse” is far from what they may expect.

As for the Blu-ray release, this 2014 Criterion Collection release of “L’Eclisse” is the definitive version to own.  Compared to the fantastic Criterion Collection DVD release that I reviewed nearly a decade ago, the picture quality is sharper and has better contrast.  The detail is also much better and if anything, the better picture quality is a major plus in one wanting to upgrade to Blu-ray.

Overall, “L’Eclisse” is a Michelangelo Antonioni masterpiece and is a piece of Italian cinema that is deserving in every cineaste’s collection.  Highly recommended!

 






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