L'eclisse(The Criterion Collection, 3.15.2005)
Conceived as a conclusion to Antonioni's seminal, informal trilogy of modern dissatisfaction and alienation (the two previous entries were L'avventura and La Notte), L'eclisse is quite arguably the best of the bunch. Presenting stunning, fragmented, seemingly abstract modern landscapes -- to nearly science fiction effect -- combined with an emotionally detached, yet brilliantly profound narrative, this is one of the best European art films of its time, or any time.
The film begins with Vittoria (Monica Vitti) attempting to leave her lover who seems more ambivalent about their present situation. After a long and arduous breakup, the two part ways. Not too soon later, she stumbles into another relationship with a young stockbroker, Piero (Alain Delon). As the film progresses, Vittoria and (primarily) Piero attempt to connect and have a successful affair. However, in a film that deals with social isolation and the lack of human connection, they're destined for disappointment.
This has been a remarkable month for Criterion. In just two weeks, they've managed to put out two of their best releases yet. In terms of transfer, extras, and packaging, both L'eclisse and Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho are among the greatest DVD achievements of the year.
This release accomplishes two amazing feats: an absolutely jaw-dropping black and white transfer, as well as an exciting, nearly hour-long documentary on Antonioni and his body of work. The documentary, "Michelangelo Antonioni: The Eye That Changed Cinema," contains invaluable information on the man and his prolific filmmography, going though each film chronologically. There are also countless interview excerpts featuring the director (we get to watch him age, gracefully, through each of these interviews), as well as footage of him accepting his many awards. There are also several interviews with his actors and, lastly, we even get to see some unused film footage.
The second disc also includes a 22 minute discussion piece, aptly titled "Elements of Landscape." This featurette contains comments from two Antonioni admirers, Italian film critic Adriano Apra and the director's long-time friend Carlo di Carlo. Both seem very enthusiastic about the film and they provide fascinating discussion of its themes, aesthetics, reception, and intriguing title.
There's also a feature-length commentary provided by Richard Pena, program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York. This is a pretty rich track, passionately highlighting many details from the film. Lastly, we get a 32-page booklet with new essays on the film, along with some excerpts by Antonioni.
Another twentieth century masterpiece is magnificently presented by-way of Criterion's painstaking efforts. This is the way we should preserve and cherish all true classics of cinema. Do not hesitate to acquire this gem: it's expensive but indisputably worth every penny. -- Neil Karassik