Red Desert (12A)


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The Independent Culture

Re-released in a new print to mark the centenary of the birth of Michelangelo Antonioni, Red Desert is the Italian director at his most oblique and infuriating. .

On the credit side is the starkly beautiful way Antonioni shoots the industrial landscape of northern Italy. Cinematographer Carlo Di Palma makes smoke-belching factories look eerie and otherworldly.

Monica Vitti is impressive, too, as Giuliana, the angst-ridden woman first seen wandering out of the mist with a child in tow. She is beautiful, elegantly dressed and yet so ravenously hungry, she begs to buy and eat a worker's half-eaten sandwich.

What is never clear is why Giulana is so despondent. Antonioni implies that it's modernity itself that seems to fill her with such existential dread. The casting of Richard Harris as a mining engineer with whom she has an affair is perplexing. His distinctive voice has been poorly dubbed.

The pacing is laboriously slow. As an experimental film about the effect of industrialization on a sensitive woman, Red Desert works well enough, but as a piece of storytelling, it's stark and impenetrable