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Giuliana is a woman who, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, struggles to discover meaning, peace and serenity within the desolate and industrialized town where she lives. Plagued by mental anguish as the result of a past automobile accident, Giuliana first seeks comfort by having an affair with one of her husband's close friends. Ultimately left dissatisfied by the affair, Giuliana returns to her wandering, forever seeking solace from her angst. Additionally burdened by the illness of her only child, Giuliana recedes further and further into neurotic isolation as the surrounding urban environment threatens to consume her.
For more about Red Desert and the Red Desert Blu-ray release, see Red Desert Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 5, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris, Carlo Chionetti, Xenia Valderi, Rita Renoir, Aldo Grotti
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
» See full cast & crew
Red Desert Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 5, 2010
Michelangelo Antonioni's "Il deserto rosso" a.k.a "Red Desert" (1964) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an audio commentary with Italian film scholar David Forgacs; an archival interview with Michelangelo Antonioni; an archival interview with Monica Vitti; a selection of uncut and unfinished dailies from the film; Michelangelo Antonioni's short films "Gente del po" and "N.U."; and the film's original Italian theatrical trailer. The disc also arrives with a 42-page illustrated booklet. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. Region-A "locked".
An emotionally disturbed married woman, Giuliana (Monica Vitti, La notte; L'eclisse), is introduced to a mining engineer, Corrado (Richard Harris, Mutiny on the Bounty; The Sporting Life), who is on his way to Patagonia, Argentina. They meet repeatedly, flirt, and eventually make love. Soon after, the man leaves while the woman slips into a state of bipolar depression.
Shot during a period when Michelangelo Antonioni was in an active relationship with Monica Vitti, Red Desert was the Italian director's first color film. Bold, imaginative and strikingly abstract, Red Desert reflected Antonioni's attitude towards rapid industrialization and urbanization, which at the time had greatly contributed to the spiritual despair and alienation many of his countrymen struggled with.
The industrial look of Red Desert is certainly amongst its most unique features. The struggle of the main characters to express their feelings, for example, is revealed through numerous striking images of polluted landscapes, as well as unusual color experimentation where the camera is largely treated as an observer whose power to manipulate is in fact far more important than the words and actions of the characters it follows . As a result, Red Desert is often seen as a film about the expressive authority of color rather than the history of a doomed affair.
The use of multiple sequences of unique electronic tunes, some mimicking sci-fi film scores from the early 40s-50s, also suggest that Red Desert was meant to be a much broader canvas where specific sounds and images - now an integral part of the industrialization and urbanization of the world Antonioni was living in - were to be the focus of attention, not the characters in it and their personal stories. This is most obvious in that notorious scene where Corrado begins tearing apart the red wall while physical attraction and love are casually discussed by Giuliana and his friends - a clear sign of Antonioni's changing attitude towards narrative structure and direction. In his L'avventura (1960), La note (1961), and L'eclisse (1962), Antonioni spends a great deal of time on specific objects he deemed crucial in understanding the main characters and their stories; in Red Desert, a reversed trend is evident - the main characters are objects that help one understand a complex process.
The end comes abruptly - and de facto offers a better summation of Antonioni's controversial stance on progress and industrialization than a logical and satisfying closure of Giuliana's story. Her life returns to normal, but her illness intensifies and chaos erupts. Interestingly enough, what eventually helps Giuliana regain her strength and sanity is not medicine but emotional detachment from the new world she is forced to live in.
Note: In 1964, Red Desert won Golden Lion award for Best Film, as well as FIPRESCI Prize (Michelangelo Antonioni) at the Venice Film Festival. In 1965, the film also won Silver Ribbon award for Best Cinematography (Carlo Di Palma) granted by Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.
Red Desert Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert arrives Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears in the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit HD 2K Datacine from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction."
This is a strong high-definition transfer. Fine object detail is impressive, clarity very good and contrast levels consistent throughout the entire film. The color-scheme of this high-definition transfer, however, is not identical to that of BFI's high-definition transfer (please see our review for the Region-B Blu-ray release of Red Desert). I've tried to match at least four different screencaptures from the two releases, and as you could see, the light green-blue tint from the BFI release has been replaced with a much stronger red tint on the Criterion release. Obviously, I cannot produce a conclusive opinion as to which one is more accurate as I am not an expert on the issue, but I prefer the color-scheme of the BFI high-definition transfer. Furthermore, sharpness levels appear practically identical, with Criterion's perhaps looking slightly stronger at times. I also noticed some mild contrast boosting, and during a couple of scenes also mild edge-enhancement. Additionally, the indoor scenes also look slightly darker. Generally speaking, the film grain is intact, but minor noise corrections have been applied. There are no serious stability issues. I also did not see any large cuts, splices, marks, or stains to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Red Desert Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: Italian LPCM Mono. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature.
According to the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc, the soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical track print. As a result, stability and fluidity have been greatly improved. The dialog is clean, crisp, and easy to follow. Giovanni Fusco's unique music score also sounds very impressive. To sum it all up, the audio treatment is very strong, and in my opinion identical to that of the BFI release.
Red Desert Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Commentary - an audio commentary with Italian film scholar David Forgacs. This is the same outstanding commentary that also appears on the BFI release of Red Desert. It is exceptionally informative.
Michelangelo Antonioni - a thirteen-minute interview with the Italian director, which was conducted as part of the French television series Les ecrans de la ville / Showing Around Town. Here, Antonioni recalls how Red Desert came to exist and talks about the complex nature of its narrative. The interview was first broadcast on November 12, 1964. In French, with optional English subtitles. (13 min, 1080i).
Monica Vitti - a ten-minute interview from the French television series Cinema cinemas, in which the Italian actress discusses her relationship with Michelangelo Antonioni as well as her approach to acting. The interview was first broadcast on March 10, 1990. In Italian and French, with optional English subtitles. (10 min, 1080i).
Dailies - a selection of uncut and unfinished dailies from Red Desert, showing the precision of Antonioni's framing and direction of actors. Presented in both black and white and color, and without audio. (29 min, 1080i).
Gente del Po - People of the Valley is a short film by Michelangelo Antonioni about the relationship between individuals and their environment. Made during 1943 and 1947. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (11 min, 1080p).
N.U. - a 12-minute film, shot in 1948, documenting the lives of street cleaners in Rome. N.U. is short for Netezza urbana, the Italian municipal cleaning service. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (12 min, 1080i).
Trailer - the Italian theatrical trailer for the film. In Italian, with optional English subtitles. (4 min, 1080p).
Booklet - a 42-page illustrated booklet containing Mark Le Fanu's essay "In This World" (the author teaches at Aarhus University in Denmark, and publishes in Sight & Sound and Positif), an interview with Michelangelo Antonioni conducted by Jean-Luc Godard for the November 1964 issue of Cahiers du cinema, and notes on "Gente del po" and "N.U." by Michelangelo Antonioni.
Red Desert Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
It is terrific to see that film aficionados residing in Region-A territories will finally be able to add Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert to their film collections. Let's hope that his sublime L'avventura, La note, and L'eclisse are not too far behind. This Blu-ray release, however, will likely spur some interesting debates (see our technical analysis), which I am looking forward to. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Red Desert Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion’s Three Reasons Trailer: Red Desert - March 24, 2011
The Criterion Collection has created a new "Three Reasons" trailer, this time for Red Desert, already available on Blu-ray. This trailer expresses three reasons why, in Criterion's opinion, Michelangelo Antonioni's first color film, set in a disturbing yet oddly ...
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