It’s a bit spooky, but one day I read that Ingmar Bergman has died and the next I read Michelangelo Antonio had died. I first saw Antonioni’s films about the same time I saw Bergman. He, Bergman, Fellini and later Godard were my introduction, back in the last half of the 60’s, to European films.
I was not fond of his stuff. It was really boring. Over my head I guess. I remember one scene going on forever and ever of a fan going back and forth and casting a shadow on the wall. And in one movie some people are off on this rocky island looking for someone who has disappeared and they search and search and talk aimlessly and after a while it’s like they forget what they are doing. As I recollect the missing person is never found.
Later on he did Blow-Up. That was better maybe because it was in color and had a tiny element of suspense and as I recollect The Who were in that one, for some reason or other, breaking up their instruments.
Bergman, and Antonio, and Fellini—though he was more energetic—all seemed to be about something called “alienation.” You used to hear a lot about “alienation"; clear up into the 70’s people talked about it. But then for some reason people stopped talking about it and I have seen the word little used since the 80’s.
I guess things change. Those Europeans were hit pretty hard by WWII if you stop to think about it. A whole culture, and way of life, had proved in some horrible way completely rotten. The Nazi’s turned the whole thing inside out. And afterwards it was hard for some people to stomach. They looked back and saw that they and their fellow country men had been conquered and after they had been conquered they had gone along, one way or the other, with the Nazi occupiers. I mean what could they do? Not much, maybe nothing. But after, it must have been hard—at least for some thoughtful people—to remember, and hard too once it was all over to rebuild over and around a disaster.
Any way, I think that experience had a good deal to do with the bleak outlook of some of those strange European directors. But those guys—mostly guys—are dying off; they had their “day in the sun” so to speak, though most of them would have been uncomfortable out in the sun. I read somewhere lately that the generation who lived their formative years in the Great Depression is also dying off.
It’s a bit spooky. Especially to think I first saw the films of these guys–what?–about 40 years ago.