October 1, 2011

He won't be coming back, and he knows it

For 25 or 30 years, my generation thought Italian cinema was the best in the world ... And what from those 30 years of laughter and excitement has stood the test of time? I still find Fellini enchanting. It seems that Antonioni still has a great reputation. Have you seen his final short, Michelangelo Eye-to-Eye? It's one of the most beautiful films in the world. Antonioni shot it in 2000. Not a single word is spoken for the whole 15 minutes. Antonioni directed himself, which he'd never done before. We see him enter Rome's Church of St-Peter-in-Chains, alone. He slowly approaches the tomb of Pope Julius II. The whole film is a wordless dialogue, an exchange of glances between Antonioni and Michelangelo's Moses. Everything we have been talking about, our era's obsession with appearances and words, its senseless agitation, is put into question by the fact of this silence, by the film-maker's gaze. He has come to say goodbye. He won't be coming back, and he knows it. The departing man has come to pay a final visit to the impenetrable masterpiece that will remain. As if trying one last time to understand. As if trying to solve a mystery that is beyond words. Antonioni's final glance at Moses is moving in the extreme.

-- Jean-Claude Carriere, 2009. From Jean-Claude Carriere and Umberto Eco, This is Not the End of the Book: A Conversation Curated by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac, translated from the French by Polly McLean. Harvill Secker, 2011.