The four-star rating I’ve afforded Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) is born of a desire to approach the film as objectively as possible. Objectively, this is an important film—maybe even close to a great film. There’s a mastery in its physical being that goes beyond considerations of drama. The rich, detailed, deep-focus black-and-white images that make up the film are so striking that they alone make the movie worth the price of a ticket. I understand, too, the fuss that greeted this movie in 1960. Its fresh depiction of upper-class Italian angst resonated with viewers (as if it were a toffee-nosed response to the more honestly earthy Fellini film, La Dolce Vita, from the same time frame). The film’s daring choice to present a mystery that has no solution—the disappearance of a socially prominent young woman (Lea Massari) going through a bout of cosmic malaise on a deserted island during a posh boating trip—was just arty enough to capture the imagination. The cleverly presented suggestion that she may have left the island on a boat is something that neither the characters nor the viewer can be certain of.
However, from a completely subjective point of view, the movie—like most Antonioni—never engaged my emotions and frequently bored me—reinforcing why the passing of Antonioni the same week as Ingmar Bergman made scarcely a ripple in my mind. Still, I can’t deny the quality of the film, and I’d never suggest it shouldn’t be seen. Antonioni is the last word in profundity for some folks—and whether he is for you is a decision you need to make for yourself.