L’Eclisse – new cinema release

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Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1962 drama L’Eclisse (Eclipse) is ready for a brand new digital restoration and a cinema release on 28 August, and is also scheduled for release on Blu-ray for the first time as well.

Martin Scorsese described Antonioni’s 1962 drama as less like a story and more like a poem. A more challenging work perhaps than the Italian’s master’s more well-known films L’Avventua and La Notte, which both also star Monica Vitti , L’Eclisse is interesting as Scorsese suggests, as it seems to veer away from narrative and ends in a wordless montage of street scenes, architecture and impending doom.

You could see this movie as an excuse for a playful series of interchanges featuring two of Europe’s top stars at the time, Antonioni’s muse Vitti and French superstar Alain Delon. Having broken up with her fiancé, played by Spanish actor Francisco Rabal (later to feature in Buñuel’s surrealistic classic Belle de Jour) in an uneasy and extended opening sequence, L’Eclisse is superficially about what happens next to Vitti’s character Vittoria.

We get lots of scenes shot in the Rome stock exchange where Vittoria goes to see her widowed mother play with her family savings, and where Delon’s Piero is an up-and-coming young trader. These scenes seem to be more interested in showing the greed and fluctuating fortunes of the market than to have much to do with Vittoria and her new relationship, but we’re not watching an early 60s equivalent of Margin Call.

L’Eclisse shows us that everyday events and emotions can simply eclipse relationships. Catch it in the cinema if you can.

Later, as the relationship between the two central characters grows, we get long fragments of meetings between them. They drift aimlessly around Rome and their apartments, but their relationship seems to drift and merge with the emptiness of their surroundings. As Vittoria says, ‘I wish I didn’t love you, or that I loved you much more.’ (Continues below).

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This is where the focus of the film seems to lose interest in the two central characters, just as they seem to realise they’re already losing interest in each other. The camera is distracted by the city and fragments of everyday life, such as passengers descending from a suburban bus and a newspaper headline about a possible nuclear war. We had seen the two lovers agreeing to meet, but neither turns up at their usual meeting place on a suburban street corner which remains empty and abandoned. The camera restlessly keeps returning there, but the lovers don’t show up.

Does Antonioni give us a truer vision of  reality by not giving us a satisfying ending? Relationships can end for unspoken reasons, or for no reason at all. Sometimes things happen and we never really know why. Our lives simply get taken over. And in the early 60s people’s lives understandably got taken over and distracted by events in Cuba and beyond.

L’Eclisse shows us that everyday events and emotions can simply eclipse relationships. Antonioni communicates this in an unexpected and memorable way, and the new trailer gives you a flavour of the crisply sumptuous new black and white print. Catch it in the cinema if you can.


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