DVD Review HTF REVIEW: L'Eclisse - The Criterion Collection (RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Mar 17, 2005.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    L'Eclisse
    The Criterion Collection





    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1962
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 125 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.85 Enhanced Widescreen
    Audio: DD Monaural
    Color/B&W: B&W
    Languages: Italian
    Subtitles: English
    MSRP: $39.95
    Package: Two discs/double Keepcase





    The Feature:
    While the actual story of the film is rather simplistic, the delivery and its execution is anything but. In this challenging drama by Michelangelo Antonioni, his characteristic long, significant periods of silence punctuate the message that people just cannot seem to communicate with each other. Antonioni follows up on his previous two films, L'Avventura (1960) and La Notte (1961), in much the same style, this tale involves a woman, Vittoria (played by Monica Vitti), who after spending a night of arguing, breaks off with her lover Riccardo (played by Francisco Rabal), a stolid yet uncommunicative intellectual. While Vittoria seeks the attention of her mother who spends much of her time at the Roman Stock Exchange and is thoroughly preoccupied by her gambling and the general hustle and bustle of the proceedings, she soon falls for Piero (played by Alain Delon), a young stockbroker who brokers many of her mother's deals.

    Initially, Vittoria relents but eventually they begin a tentative affair. Piero seems rather removed and slightly distant as his focus is clearly on his financial investments and the material goods he cherishes. His actions speak louder than words when his sports car is stolen and soon after, recovered. It turns out that there is a dead man in the car but Piero is only concerned about the possible damage to the car's body and motor. There is much to appreciate in this man who is not overly intellectual and is seemingly free of complications, other than his materialistic views. Vittoria, on the other hand is also simplistic but her naivety seems to obstruct her ability to choose an appropriate partner. Yet their innermost fear, plays upon both of them in ways that go against an honest expression of their love and against a lasting relationship. When the time comes however, will the lovers meet at their customary meeting place?

    On one hand, an interesting aspect of L'Eclisse is its ability to balance out the style and substance (though the style is arguably more distinguishable in this case). On the other hand, the film could be off-putting to viewers not terribly familiar with Antonioni's style. Also interesting is how intently Antonioni gets inside Vittoria's head, and at the same time, maintains a detachment despite the varying emotional environment using a minimal amount of dialogue.

    There is an interesting sense of tension present throughout this film, which lets us in just enough to keep us curious. Nothing is blatant. Perhaps the biggest asset to the film's success is the star, Monica Vitti. This incredibly attractive woman not only turns in a wonderful performance, but her facial expressions and mannerisms add to the sense of angst and torment she clearly suffers from. She displays just enough emotion to realize the character, but is impressionable enough for the director to illustrate his theme through her. As in L'Avventura, there is a mystery surrounding this female lead.

    The film compromises nothing in its exploration of human disaffection. L'Eclisse is particularly memorable for its strange combination of imagery of modern city life (in particular the Stock Exchange scenes and the car running into the river) with that of natural, or more primitive states (Vitti's African dance and the fossilized plant).

    The Feature: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    The film is presented in its OAR of 1.85:1 and is enhanced. This is an exceptionally good looking transfer, certainly one of the nicer B&W titles I have reviewed recently. There is a smooth velvety quality to this film which is very easy on the eyes.

    The black levels were very bold and deep - never murky and well defined. Whites were stark and clean. There was an exceptional level of grayscale and the overall levels of contrast and shadow detail were perfect.

    Image detail was also quite nice and mostly sharp. Not only were close-ups impressive looking but longer and wider shots were equally impressive. There was only a slight amount of fine film grain present which offered up a superb looking film-like image with a nice amount of depth.

    The print looked virtually immaculate and was free of any dirt or dust nor were there any traces of scratches. The image was mostly stable as shimmer or jitter occurred only infrequently. With the 2nd disc housing the majority of supplements, compression was not an issue and there are no signs of any edge enhancement.

    A very nice job indeed.

    Video: 4.5/5
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    Audio:
    The disc is encoded with the film’s original monaural soundtrack. As the film starts, music accompanies which is a cheerful number, presented with gusto and a playful enthusiasm, however, this music ends abruptly in the middle of the credits, only to be replaced by an atonal and jarring piece that clearly sets the tone. The music sounds very good – certainly as good as good we would expect from a mono track.

    Overall, everything is very clean and there is minimal hiss and the track is free of any pops or crackling.

    Dialogue seemed to always be bold and intelligible and there were no signs of straining or edginess, although as described in the review, Antonioni makes very good and effective use of frequent bouts of silence throughout the course of this film – almost eerie at times.

    Audio: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    All of the special features can be found on disc two of this set with the exception of:
    [*] The Commentary which features Richard Peña, program director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City and an associate professor of film studios at Columbia University. He starts by discussing the place of the film with the trilogy of Antonioni's films. Discussed are a number of topics relating to the film such as the stars including brief bios, geographic locations and their relevance to the film as well as the importance of the Roman Stock Market which turns out to be a key meeting spot in the film. Also touched upon is a 6-7 minute scene that was eventually cut from the final version of the film as well as the name of the film and his interpretation as to its meaning. Mr. Peña does a very good job at discussing the film in manner that is academically oriented focusing on symbolisms and metaphors. If you're a fan of commentaries with an academic slant, you'll enjoy this one. It was recorded in New York on November of 2004.


    Disc Two:
    [*] The Eye That Changed Cinema is a documentary that was created in 2001 by Sandro Lai which chronicles the career of Michaelangelo Antonioni from his documentary beginnings in the mid 1950's to the opening of his museum in Ferrara, Italy in the mid 1990's. Much of the feature includes footage of the director in action with a number of audio clips as well as a video interview in which he discusses the progression of his lengthy career. A number of his films are highlighted including the featured film. Duration: 55:48 minutes.
    [*] Elements of Landscape. Adriano Apra, Italian film critic and scholar, and Carlo di Carlo longtime Antonioni friend and collaborator, discuss Antonioni and his vision for L'Eclisse. During this feature, aside from personal recollections, a number of topics are discussed relating to the film in particularly Antonioni's style, many of the symbolisms that appear throughout the course of the film - including their various interpretations as well as the commercial failure of the film when it debuted theatrically. These interviews were recorded exclusively for The Criterion Collection in Rome in the fall of 2004. Duration: 21:59 minutes.
    [*] And finally, a Booklet is included. This is a very detailed 32 page booklet which not only contains the typical cast & crew credits, the technical acknowledgements and a list of chapter stops, but several other writings have been included. First up is an essay by Jonathon Rosenbaum entitled, “A Vigilance Of Desire: Antonioni's L'Eclisse”. Next is an essay relating to the various collaborations of the star of the film and its director entitled, “Antonioni And Vitti” written by Gilberto Perez. “Antonioni On Antonioni - Making a Film Is My Way of Life" is the next excerpted article which originally appeared in the 1962 issue of Film Culture. The next article is entitled, “On His Art” from screenplays of Michael Antonioni, Orion Press in 1963.

    Special Features: 3.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    L'Eclisse is a fine film and one I appreciated particularly for the performance of Monica Vitti, however, if you are among those who need resolution at the end of your films, you may wish to proceed with caution. The final sequence is almost overwhelming in its science-fiction-like presentation. The wide-open spaces and the non-traditional architecture evoke the feeling of an unfamiliar place, an enigmatic collage of disconnect and seemingly inconsequential details.

    As for the DVD package itself, this is outstanding! I suspect this transfer is going to give most other B&W film releases of 2005, a run for its money. This is easily one of the nicest B&W transfers I have seen released (so far) this year which is truly exceptional. On top of the first rate presentation, Criterion has included a group of interesting and informative special features.

    Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Recommended.




    Release Date: March 15th, 2005
     
  2. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    Interesting review, Herb. Nicely written.

    I am a huge admirer of Antonioni and L'Eclisse is a pivotal film in his lengthy career. Emotionally, it is a powerful film and the magnificent, perfectly-composed cinematography only intensifies the film.

    In many ways, it is the perfect film of the Sixties for me: Antonioni; gorgeous black and white images; the study of the Individual in Modern Society and, of course, Alain Delon. What more could I ask for?

    I recently watched Professione: Reporter and it holds up brilliantly. An amazing film. When Antonioni is on form, his films are, in so many ways, extraordinary.

    The transfer and extras on this set are amazing. If you are a fan, or are curious about this film, buy this set pronto!
     
  3. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

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    Nice review Herb.

    This is a definite pickup for me, as good as La Notte in his "alienation trilogy" in my opinion.

    I always felt that Linklater was homaging the ending of L'Eclisse in his ending of Before Sunrise.
    Whether that was his intent or not, I'm not sure.

    This will sit nicely beside L'Avventura on my shelf.
     
  4. Armin Jager

    Armin Jager Stunt Coordinator

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    ... boring.

    Sorry couldn't resist [​IMG] . I know it belongs in the movie forum :b .
     
  5. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    I think flicks like "Spanglish" or "Something's Gotta Give" might be more your speed, Armin. [​IMG]

    Anyway, along with "L'avventura", this is one of my favorite Criterion releases ever. But it really drives home how unfortunate it is that "La Notte" seems unlikely to be a Criterion release, and I'm quite unsatisfied with the version we have. Does anyone know whether the Italian release from Mondo (or any other release that might be out there) is superior to Fox Lorber's non anamorphic/burned-in subs version?
     
  6. Armin Jager

    Armin Jager Stunt Coordinator

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    Both much better than L'avventura [​IMG] . After his best films Le Amiche and Il Grido Antonioni unfortunately went mad.

    I hope Criterion finally manages to bring out all ART movies from Antonioni and the other guys of the ART cinema gang and then at least can increase their output of Hollywood Classics. I daily caress my "Night and the City", "My Man Godfrey" and "The Devil and Daniel Webster" DVDs :b. Give us more!!! SCARLET STREET!!! Please!!! I buy thousand copies [​IMG].
     
  7. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    What's wrong with ART, exactly, Armin?
     
  8. Armin Jager

    Armin Jager Stunt Coordinator

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    There's nothing wrong with art, but a lot with ART [​IMG].
    Which means movies who grab you by the throat and cry out loudely that they are high art by avoiding anything resembling a story with characters. The effect is always that they end up to be the most unsubtle films you could imagine driving their few points home with a sledgehammer. How could I show that Vitti is alienated by the stock exchange? Let's show her for twenty minutes walking around and staring, a point a more talented director would have shown in two minutes and integrated in a interesting story line with interesting character interactions in order to keep the audiences awake and to avoid a too obvious message.

    That's why I wish Criterion would tackle more real art like SCARLET STREET.
     
  9. Zen Butler

    Zen Butler Producer

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    Great review Herb. As a fan of L'Avventura, I'm excited to finally see this. A blind-buy for sure. I heard someone mention the La Notte (FoxLorber) for which I've been a tinge frightened of(think or argue the first The Umbrellas of Cherbourg release). How bad is the FoxLOrber La Notte? I don't need two Criterion bookends and would love to complete the loose trilogy.






    Not sure if I'm interpreting this correctly. Maybe I'm the late show but I do agree a film like Scarlet Street deserves a better treatment. I'm not even sure what one I have but I know it's horrid.

    Help me...are we comparing Lang and Antonioni?
     
  10. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    Fair points, I suppose, Armin. Although, I feel you are being harsh in suggesting that Antonioni doesn't have sufficient talent to tell his own stories in the way he sees fit. No other filmmaker could have made the films he made in a manner that would have been more satisfying for discerning audiences of the time. Another filmmaker could have made them more appealing, but not as elegant or intellectually satisfying.

    As a point of fact, there are no high-quality elements available for Scarlet Street. The original camera negative was destroyed years ago and it seems that most prints are heavily duped (5th or 6th generation). I'm sure there are masterpositives or internegatives out there, but wherever they are, they must be well-hidden. Until they are found, there is zero chance of the film getting a Criterion DVD, as much as I'd love that to happen. In any case, the film is in the Public Domain, and what's to stop any cheapjack company from ripping a Criterion disc and selling their own repackaged disc for $5.98?

    Sorry for getting off-topic, Herb.
     
  11. Arman

    Arman Screenwriter

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    I think 2005 is going to be the year I will going to catch-up with these great Criterion Collection DVD releases. My great CC wish list just keeps getting longer because I'm so busy renting and watching movies and with so many other must have expensive things to buy. I keep on missing that 20% off big sale on Overstock and DeepDiscountDVD [can't afford to pay CC's full price]. Antonioni is one of my all-time favorite directors. Criterion or not - my DVD library is not going to be complete without Blow-up, L'Avventura, L'Eclisse, La Notte, Il Grido etc. (all in my Top 100/200 greatest films of all-time).
     
  12. WillardK

    WillardK Second Unit

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    Fine review Herb.
    I haven't watched the extras yet, but did very much enjoy the way the film is presented. I have to disagree with Armin: The themes aren't so much sledgehammered as they are revealed with about as expert a hand at minimalism as you'll ever see. It's a film that speaks exceptionally well for itself but it also demands the viewer bring his/herself into an active interpretation. The final sequence is stunning each time I see it and as purely visual (and aural) storytelling is truly masterful. An involving story consists of more than events.

    On a side note: that Mina song (Eclisse Twist) is SO fun! I was happy to find a full version on a thrift store copy of her greatest hits!
     
  13. Matt_P

    Matt_P Second Unit

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    Simply a beautiful film and a splendid set. One of the best releases so far this year.
     

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