Friday, August 03, 2007

An Aesthetic Agony...

This peculiar scene from Antonioni's "La Notte" is fun to watch on You Tube, but I'm not entirely sure that this would have been the director's prefered venue. Few of us will nod our heads, rub out our Galloise, and declare upper-middle class bourgeois post-war entertainment choices to be a sure sign of social decay. Some of us might seize upon the twisted, narcotic nature of erotic love as depicted by the contortionists. Many of us will simply wonder where all the stripping acrobats accompanied by cool jazz acts have gone.

But without the ability to understand Italian, you will miss the real subterfuge at the core of the scene. Essentially, Jeanne Moreau (Morose?) as the worldweary Lidia announces that she may in fact be having an idea. "It is forming over my head...right here..." "Will you tell me your idea?" asks the worldweary Marcello Mastroianni as the worldweary writer Giovanni..."No..." she replies and changes the subject. Later we learn what her idea was, and we understand, a little, why these people are so miserable. Why love becomes an impossibility as life lingers on...

My god, Post-war Europe was a mess. Yes, there was a future to be had, but spirits could simply not be rallied. The prospects of overcoming a pervasive continental malaise were grim. The overwhelming facts of the war, coupled with the industrial-economic pressure to rebuild and create a better tomorrow, left your average thinking being numb, exhausted, and ultimately indifferent. Happiness and horror were no longer valid options. Just autopilot: a ghostly haunting of your own life, and a vague memory of a soul. And perfect hair.


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