Antonioni : The Poet of Images

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Celebrated critic William Arrowsmith did not sit on the fence when it came to Michelangelo Antonioni, the inspired Italian director of such classic films as L'avventura, Blow-up, and Eclipse. "Let me be clear about what I think," Arrowsmith told an audience assembled at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1977. "Antonioni is one of the greatest living artists, and as a director of film, his only living peer is Kurosawa; and he is unmistakably the peer of the other great masters in all the arts. As an innovator and manipulator of images, he is the peer of Joyce in the novel; in creating a genuine cinematic poetry, he stands on a level with Vale(accent)ry and Eliot in poetry proper; and that his artistic vision, while perhaps no greater than that of Fitzgerald or Eliot or Montale or Pavese, is at least as great and compelling." What was there about Antonioni's films that ignited such a response in Arrowsmith, and that continues to move, inspire, entrance and occasionally enrage film lovers today? In Antonioni: Poet of Images, Arrowsmith's friend and colleague Ted Perry has brought together and edited eight remarkable essays, all but two never before published, in which the late critic confronts the Antonioni oeuvre through a film-by-film examination of his best known work, from 1956's Il grido, to L'avventura, La notte, Eclipse, Red Desert, Blow-Up, and Zabriskie Point, concluding with 1975's The Passenger, starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider. Originally presented as lectures, these seminal essays brilliantly illuminate what these films mean to us, and why. A renowned literary critic and classicist, Arrowsmith traces with matchless clarity the intellectual roots of Antonioni's uncompromising vision. But Arrowsmith also illuminates the more technical and cinematic aspects of Antonioni's work, how the movement of the camera or the use of space enhanced the director's ability to find and create memorable images. In his analysis of a scene in La notte, for instance, Arrowsmith proposes how the composition of shots expresses the meaning. Noting how the actress portraying a nymphomaniac is framed next to expanses of wall, Arrowsmith writes, "What the nymphomaniac wants to shut out is any knowledge of the blank immensity...that we see exteriorized as she stands against the absolutely clinical white blankness of the wall, her own emptiness projected as the emptiness around her, threatening her." "When an artist like Antonioni is examined by a critic like Arrowsmith," Ted Perry writes in his memorable introduction,"We see again how art is connected to life, life to death, and both art and life to meaning." Enhanced by an appendix providing a brief synopsis of each of the eight films, and frequent translations of key bits of dialogue crucial to film-goers' understanding, Antonioni: Poet of Images captures the insight, sensitivity, and intelligence of one of our most distinguished critics, and celebrates the work of one of the world's most innovative film makers. It is essential reading for lovers of cinema and all admirers of more

Product details

  • Hardback | 206 pages
  • 152.4 x 236.22 x 22.86mm | 453.59g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195092708
  • 9780195092707

Review quote

"One sad irony of William Arrowsmith's untimely death is that we now have his long awaited book on Antonioni....It is a brilliant and energetic elucidation of all the films of Antonioni's major period. Nothing matches the erudition and sensitivity with which he explores the filmmaker's moral landscapes and urban vistas."--P. Adams Sitney, author of Visionary Film and Vital Crises in Italian Cinema"The richly detailed texture of Arrowsmith's informed and allusive essays is an apt response to the films of Antonioni and a compelling invitation to reconsider the director's astonishing oeuvre."--Charles Affron, editor of Eight and a Half"A master of Greek and Latin classics, Arrowsmith writes at the top of his form on a resolutely modern filmmaker. Two great seeing minds meet in this book. It provides criticism at its best--probing, focued on the work itself, jargon-free."--Roger Shattuck, author of The Banquet Years"William Arroswmith is one of the rare critics who supports his literary and thematic analysis of the filmic text with a close examination of film form and structure. Ted Perry's illuminating introduction provides helpful insight into Arroswmith's 'obsession with themes and innovations of expression, ' thereby explaining why Antonioni called Arrowsmith 'a creative critic.'"--Vlada Petric, Harvard University"A book of profound imaginative insight that overturns every cliche about Antonioni, exploring those elements of his vision and technique in which his originality and genius consist. Responding to the experience of his films, revealing the larger patterns of meaning through the sensuous details of which they are made, Arrowsmith has created a true 'poetry of criticism.' But this more than a book about film. It is a revelation of what it means to have been alive in the twentieth century, of the human psyche's struggle to survive, to remain recognizably 'human, ' in a time of universal uncertainty and constant change,"--Herbert Goldershow more

About William Arrowsmith

About the Author: William Arrowsmith was esteemed for his translations of Euripides, Aristophanes, Cesare Pavese, and Eugene Montale, and as the founder of several important journals, including Hudson Review and The Chimera. One of this country's most distinguished classicists, he died in 1992. Editor Ted Perry is Professor of Theatre and Art, as well as Director of Film/Video, at Middlebury College. Formerly the Director of the Film Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, his film publications include work on Antonioni and more

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