Release Date: 12 April 1962
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Production Company: Cineriz
Before I jump into the main review, I just want to note that old movies should have a warning label when a completely random scene in blackface is going to occur. I wasn’t ready when the film’s protagonist Vittoria (Monica Vitti) visits a neighbor Marta (Mirella Ricciardi), a white woman born and raised in Kenya , suddenly has her entire body covered in dark makeup and performs a “tribal” dance. To be fair, unlike some movies, the audience is not supposed to be on Vittoria’s side in this moment, and there’s a pointed judgement of Marta when she reveals she believes the Black Kenyans seeking civil rights are “monkeys.”
This is just one scene though in a longer film that follows Vittoria on her perambulations through Rome over an ingeminate amount of time, although it feels like it’s a few weeks at most. The movie begins with her ending a long-term relationship with Riccardo (Francisco Rabal) because she does not wish to marry. Over the course of the film she gets to know her mother’s young stockbroker Piero (Alain Delon) and reluctantly forms a romantic partnering with him that feels doomed from the start. Most of the film is shot on location emphasizing the post-war modernist design of Rome and its outskirts.
I feel this movie has many parallels with Cleo, From 5 to 7. Both films feature a stylish and conventionally attractive young woman, who struggle with internal turmoil and inability to connect with others against the background of a European capital. They even both touch upon African colonialism and independence movements. However I feel that Cleo, From 5 to 7 is the stronger film because it makes you feel an emotional bond with the protagonist while L’Eclisse just makes you feel hollow.
There are several scenes I liked in this film. The opening scene of the breakup is strong as both characters have things they want to say but not the words to say them. One scene in the Rome Stock Exchange lampoons the greed of capitalists forced to take a moment of silence for a recently deceased colleague as they grumble about lost earning potential. And the final sequence of the film where there are multiple shots of Vittoria and Piero’s meeting spot with neither character ever appearing is a fascinating way to end a film.
Ultimately though, I have to agree with film critic Jon Lisi who wrote that L’Eclisse “is beautifully made, historically important, and boring as hell.” After Blowup and L’Avventura this is the third Antonioni film I’ve watched and I’m glad there are no more on my list of Classic Films. I can see why his work is considered important but I don’t enjoy watching them.