Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Sergio Leone | 2hr 55min

Sergio Leone isn’t exactly known for his conciseness, and yet there are few directors as skilled as him in stringing along audiences through extended sequences of agonising suspense rendered in painstaking detail, right down to the timing of each sound effect and cutaway. We cling to these minor shifts in mood like drops of water in an arid desert, promising to quench our thirst for action if we hang on for a little longer. Just as cutting Once Upon a Time in the West down from its epic 175-minute run time would be a grave mistake, so too would it be to cut down its 15-minute opening scene, as it is partially through the sheer length of both that we feel the gravity of the situation at hand, and remain compelled to learn the clandestine motives of the mysterious characters we spend time with.

On the surface of this opening, we are watching three gunmen swagger into a train depot and forcefully take it over with barely a word spoken, but then in the background a windmill-powered pump squeaks to its own rhythm, a fly buzzes around the men, and water drips slowly into a bucket. Leone’s status as one of the great cinematic montagists who can stand proudly alongside Sergei Eisenstein is on full display here in the precise rhythm of each individual edit, and the understanding of how a simple cut from a wide to a tightly-framed close-up can keep us in the grip of the narrative. These shadowy men continue to wait around, and although very little happens, we can’t tear our eyes away. Then, very faintly, we hear the whistle of a train, they all stand to attention anticipating some unknown arrival, and we too lean forward in our seats.

One of cinema’s great montagists at work in the opening credits spread out over fifteen minutes. Totally gripping with very few words of dialogue and no musical score.
A fluid transition from one remarkable composition…
…to yet another, without so much as a cut.

If that first scene feels like it stretches out to oblivion, then it is even more astounding that Leone holds off for a full 21 minutes to bring in Ennio Morricone’s glorious score – a minor chord struck on an electric guitar, punctuating the moment a young boy runs right into a close-up and is hit with the devastating realisation that his entire family has been massacred. As for the identity of the perpetrators, we are left to watch from a low angle as several men in flapping, dark coats emerge from the distance, lit from behind like angels of death. And then, as Leone’s camera moves into close-ups, we finally discover their identities. Henry Fonda, the Hollywood actor known for his characters of pure goodness, appears with his bright blue eyes appearing more malevolent than we have ever seen them before, piercing through his greasy visage. Charles Bronson’s turn as the heroic gunman Harmonica certainly impresses in his quiet reservation and mystique, but there is no competing with Fonda as the frightening outlaw Frank, delivering a landmark performance that belongs among the best of both the Western genre and his own illustrious career.

Outlaws emerging from the bushes and advancing towards the camera in this low angle like angels of death.
One of the most terrifying western villains of the screen, played by Henry Fonda no less.

As outlaws, lawmen, and pioneers face off against each other in wide, open spaces for precious resources and personal vengeance, the impact of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films on Leone’s exquisite staging of actors in both static shots and action scenes becomes visible, manifesting the imposing presence of these characters and the tension between them. This widescreen aspect ratio may not be designed for close-ups, and yet with his deep focus photography he still continuously finds the most exciting ways to frame them against their environment, often with his subject off to the side while another occupies the background next to them in equally sharp focus.

Tremendous depth of field in Leone’s staging of actors.
Leone filling his widescreen images with faces, each in separate layers of the frame.

His flair for staging goes beyond small groups though, as in one early scene we follow Mrs McBain, a new arrival in town, along the outside of a train station, before we are lifted high into the air through a magnificent crane shot, expanding the scope of this environment before our eyes as we discover an entire bustling town of horses, carriages, and villagers. Just outside its borders, we find a photographic vision of Monument Valley that hasn’t looked this beautiful since The Searchers, caught in some of the film’s greatest establishing shots. Much like Kurosawa, Leone possesses a keen eye for compositions that range in scale from personal to epic, and here in Once Upon a Time in the West he puts that to use in delivering a tale that creates mythical figures out of complicated, nuanced characters.

One magnificent crane shot lifting the camera from here…
…to here, elevating this film to an epic scale.

That said, it is hard to ignore the fundamental difference between the chosen genres of the Italian and Japanese directors. Given the abrupt nature of pistol duels, the climactic eruptions of violence that Leone promises in his long, tense build-ups are often over far quicker than a sword fight. It is almost cruel, given how much of everyone’s lives seem built around the anticipation of conflict. Still, these pay-offs are never unsatisfying, as it is in Leone’s compelling characters that he invests his time and attention, even more so than the physical struggles themselves, and so the moment that their survival is decided in a lightning-fast pull of a trigger becomes absolutely paramount to all our hopes and fears. 

Leone’s first western shot in America, and he makes great use of its identifiable natural landscapes.

As for those motivations which drive such vicious confrontations, one must dive a little deeper than the surface level plot that follows a conflict over land ownership. These characters are complex and fluid in their loyalties, shifting their allegiance to whomever aligns most with their own personal objectives, whether that is a business tycoon’s desire to build a railroad that will let him see the ocean before he dies, or a former prostitute’s hope of a more prosperous life. For the two forces of good and evil that circle each other at the centre of this narrative, Harmonica and Frank, we are left for a long time wondering what specifically is binding these adversaries together within such a complicated, thorny relationship. We are assured though that any answers we might receive regarding Harmonica’s true nature will emerge “only at the point of dying”, whether that it be Frank’s or his own. Within this cryptic piece of foreshadowing lies a quiet acknowledgement of death being the single moment in our lives that we gain all the perspective and wisdom we could have ever wished for, even if it arrives far too late.

And indeed, it isn’t just the source of Harmonica’s motivation that is revealed in these final minutes though, but the very creation of his essence in the cruel hands of Frank himself. In a poetic mirroring of the past and present, both men deliver the humiliating gesture of placing a harmonica in the mouth of their incapacitated victim, though Frank’s defeat carries more mortal consequences. Just before collapsing in the dirt, he nods with a conspicuous look in his eyes. Is it regret? A recognition of his own sins? The resigned acceptance of a fate he inadvertently carved out for himself decades ago? Just as its title suggests, Once Upon a Time in the West is more a legend than anything else, and so perhaps as he looks back on his life with his dying breath, that is exactly what Frank is seeing – his own despicable place in the saga of American history, immortalised as a monster for centuries to come.

Another sweeping camera movement from the above close-up into this horrifying wide, gradually revealing the peril of the situation.
Poetic justice in Frank’s fate, and a haunting silent recognition in his eyes.

Once Upon a Time in the West is available to stream on SBS On Demand, and available to rent or buy on iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play.

Point Blank (1967)

John Boorman | 1hr 27min

Point Blank could have almost been a conventional crime thriller in some alternate universe. ‘Almost’ is the key word there, because as much as this film straddles a line between high and low art, John Boorman’s manipulation of pulpy violence and a doggedly determined protagonist points towards something a little sharper and more sophisticated than the material would suggest. With great freedom granted to him in the final cut, Point Blank transcends all genre trappings, as Boorman’s confounding plot and leaps in time extracts a dizzying fever dream from the encounters, deals, and interrogations conducted by one wronged man across the city of Los Angeles.

That this man feels such an urge to correct the injustice committed against him is ridiculous in the first place, given that the money stolen from him had already been stolen from someone else. But Walker is not going to let go of $93,000 that easily, especially since the transgressor is a close friend and associate, Reese, who has additionally left him for dead. Theories that everything after his shooting plays out as a hallucination in his dying mind aren’t totally unfounded, though it is worth noting that even in this first scene we are already disorientated by the cutting between three parallel timelines – his recruitment, the operation, and his half-conscious body lying on the floor of a jail cell, pondering the sequence of events leading to this moment. And then, quietly he wonders to himself…

“Did it happen? A dream… a dream.”

Gorgeous avant-garde framing through mirrors.

Answers don’t come easily here, especially given how obfuscated Walker’s character motivations are. The fuss that he is making over such an inconsequential amount of money in his mission for vengeance doesn’t go unnoted by surrounding characters. “Do you mean to say you’d bring down this immense organisation for a paltry $93,000?” remarks one. “Somebody’s gotta pay,” retorts Walker, though Lee Marvin delivers it as less of a threat and more a weak assertion of justice. In this Californian underbelly, he may have once been an intelligent, fearsome figure, and yet now as he chases up loose ends in an ever-unravelling mystery, he simply looks like an old, lost man, falling back on the only thing he has left – his sheer power of will. Marvin was only 43 years old when he shot this film, but in this role he looks as if he could be anywhere upwards of 50, and so even as he marches forward with steadfast conviction in his quest, there is a weariness contained in his performance, and a frustration by the lack of sense in this unsettling urban landscape.

Superb use of architecture all throughout Point Blank, trapping and isolating Walker in a world of hard lines and angles.

But more than just seeming slightly unnerving, these Californian cities which he traverses are also truly formidable in their magnificent structures, overwhelming and isolating Walker with their off-kilter angles and imposing scale. While a narrative comparison might be able to be drawn to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo in its surreal, wandering descent, visually Point Blank is closer to a Michelangelo Antonioni film in Boorman’s tremendous use of architecture to divide and obstruct characters in an environment of stone, metal, and glass, rigid in its unified patterns.

Stu Gardner as a demented performer framed in a wide, gaping mouth. Even as Walker beats up two other men, he never stops singing.
Red lighting drips down Walker’s face like blood.

The manner in which these surroundings consume their inhabitants is literalised in one particularly demented scene in a night club, in which an unhinged performer who ad libs over a repetitive guitar riff is introduced to us in the centre of a large, gaping mouth projected upon a screen. In the same scene, right after a violent brawl that sees Walker come out on top, his face is drenched in a red neon light, dripping down his face like bright, bloody rain.

And then as if to sink us even deeper into the psychological chaos of Walker’s mission, Boorman leads us through flashbacks which unfold in dreamy montages and slow-motion. The images just float on by as wistful voiceovers play out over the top, almost like if Terrence Malick were to take a dark turn into experimental neo-noir. The narrative jumps around in non-linear patterns, as a kiss shared between Walker and his sister-in-law, Chris, on the floor of her apartment match cuts to her bed, where they continue to embrace. And quite peculiarly, the confused expression on Walker’s face seems to indicate a similar disorientation to our own, as if a chunk of time between both instances has completely disappeared.

Match cuts forwards and backwards through time, constantly throwing us off.

Indeed, Walker is barely a free agent in this constantly shifting world, and he knows it. As Point Blank reaches its denouement, he chases down a disembodied voice speaking over an intercom system, which may as well be his own self-critical inner monologue even if it sounds like Chris’.

“You’re played out. It’s over. You’re finished. What would you do with the money if you got it? It wasn’t yours in the first place. Why don’t you just lay down and die?”

In the face of such overwhelming odds and with such little justification for his own conviction, what else is there to do? Such a quiet relinquishing of power is the only ending that makes sense for a man so desperate to exert his own will over a world that refuses to bow down. And besides, considering the violent deaths ridden all throughout Point Blank, perhaps Walker’s sad, uneventful retreat into the shadows is the best he could have ever really hoped for.

Point Blank is currently available to stream on The Criterion Channel, and available to rent or buy on iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play.

Lola (1961)

Jacques Demy | 1hr 30min

Unlike so many other auteur filmmakers closely associated with movie-musicals, Jacques Demy was no American working within a restrictive Hollywood studio system – this is a French director who stepped up to the plate in 1961 with his enthralling debut, Lola, and thus began his own cinematic revolution contained within the larger French New Wave movement. While not quite the full-fledged musical that his later efforts would be, Lola is instead about as close as a film could get to being a musical without intermittently indulging in songs. In fact, there is only one number to be found, “Lola”, sung near the halfway mark by French actress Anouk Aimée. This song, much like the film’s title, is named after its leading character, who herself is named after the iconic Marlene Dietrich character, Lola Lola. Similarities to the German cabaret singer of the 1930 film The Blue Angel are abundant, particularly in Aimée’s enthralling performance as a beautiful, talented woman with a long line of suitors, receptive to their charms but ultimately unwavering in her singular focus.

Anouk Aimée is mesmerising as Lola, commanding every second of screen time, most of all in her one, big musical number.

The relative lack of songs should not be taken to mean that Lola unfolds with any less panache, vigour, or sensitivity than a traditional musical though. In the same year, 1961, Demy’s French contemporary, Jean-Luc Godard, also deconstructed the genre in A Woman is a Woman, similarly using an instrumental score beneath scripted dialogue to imitate the rise and fall of emotions conventionally expressed through musical numbers. But where Godard’s effort is marked by bright colours, self-awareness, and his trademark dissonance, Lola is far more elegantly muted in comparison. Demy would later indulge in striking colour compositions in his most famous musical, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but this is his first and only film shot in black-and-white, and as such it is rather through his brisk tracking shots, soft natural lighting, and rhythmic cutting that his delicate artistry shines through. 

Unlike other French New Wave directors, Demy turned away from Paris, and instead used the beautiful city of Nantes as his choice of shooting location.

Though it is Josef von Sternberg who is honoured in the character archetype of the titular Lola, Max Ophüls is the one who Demy pays tribute to right up front in his opening credits. The Ophüls influence is certainly present in the way Demy glides his camera gracefully through his streets and sets, but it can also be found in his feminist-tinted meditations on fate, which underlies the form of the entire narrative. Whenever one character in Lola is drawn to another, there is almost always a slightly obscured nostalgia behind the attraction, with the object of their attraction often bearing similarities to a man or woman they once loved. The most obvious case of this is in the real past shared between Lola and Roland, an old friend she runs into by chance on the streets of Nantes. While he pursues her, Lola herself seems more hung up on another former lover, Michel. This longing becomes the motivation for her fling with American sailor and Michel-lookalike, Frankie, who himself strikes up a friendship with Cécile, a 13-year-old girl that reminds him of his sister back in Chicago, and who, coming full circle, reminds Roland of Lola.

Within this tangle of faint reminiscences, Cécile stands as the only one clear-minded in the connections she forms with others, having not yet been tainted by the pain of long-lost memories. When Frankie takes her to the fair, Demy draws us away from the immediacy of the moment in his swelling score and slow-motion photography, as if to turn this into a pure, nostalgic impression that she will never fully recapture. Though Cécile is one of the lucky few who can live in the moment without the burden of the past, the emphasis on the celebration of her 14th birthday underscores the transient nature of her own youth, indicating that one day she too will find herself pining after old memories.

A glorious slow-motion sequence as Cécile runs through the fair with Frankie, a young girl’s first love in bloom.

With the ghosts of old lovers, friends, and relatives emerging in vague associations all throughout Lola, the physical manifestation of one such memory towards the conclusion seems almost too good to be true, despite it keeping with the tradition of happy musical endings. Why is it that Michel returns to whisk Lola away? Is this abrupt resolution really all that earned? That any of these characters who are so bogged down in bygone days might actually have a future seems impossible. As Lola drives away with Michael towards her new life though, the figure of Roland walking the opposite direction down the street catches her eye. And just as she has always done whenever teased by a hint of the past, she once again turns backwards to linger on what could have been.

This bitter sting in an artificially sweet ending may be a departure from the traditionally optimistic fare of movie-musicals, but Demy is not a cynic at heart. In his characters’ foolish devotion to the past, we can see his own love for cinema history, as he aims to evoke a similar joyous innocence to those musicals that inspired him – yet in holding Lola back from becoming a proper musical itself, and by adding in notes of such ambiguous regret, there is a purposeful incompleteness to this feeling. For Lola, and for everyone else around her, their nostalgic yearnings are never-ending attempts to reclaim a feeling that never existed, but as Roland reminds her just before their final farewell, “There’s a bit of happiness in simply wanting happiness.” And just as that is enough for Lola as she moves on, it too becomes enough Demy in his wistful musings over his love of film.

Demy’s use of natural lighting is superb, making white shades seem to glow and then finding glorious frames such as these within windows.

Lola is currently available to stream on Stan, Mubi Australia, and Foxtel Now.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1965)

Sergei Parajanov | 1hr 50min

It takes a story as rooted in convention and archetypes as this ‘Romeo and Juliet’ inspired plot to imbue Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors with solid narrative form, as Sergei Parajanov certainly needs it to hold together his wildly avant-garde experiments in style. Comparisons may be drawn to Mikhail Kalatozov, his Soviet contemporary of similarly Georgian origin, especially in the untethered camerawork swinging through scenes with reckless abandon, and the low angles framing faces against monochromatic skies. But where Kalatozov was an actively propagandistic filmmaker working for the USSR government and gently pushing the boundaries of socialist realism, Parajanov broke all the rules in inventing his own unhinged, magical realist style that would only serve to inflame national authorities.

Parajanov constructing crosses in his mise-en-scène as formal markers of tragedy.

In a Hutsul village nestled in a Ukrainian mountain range, a young man, Ivan, falls in love with Marichka, a woman who lies on the other side of a feudal divide. When she passes away shortly after their marriage, he grows depressed, unable to shake her ghostly memory. Even when he finally remarries, her presence continues to be felt, and gradually erodes his relationship with his new wife.

Parajanov has no pretences about the simplicity of this narrative. It is a folk tale, first and foremost, powerfully rooted in Hutsul customs and Orthodox traditions which remain unifying forces through the clashes and tragedies of Ivan’s life. When misfortune strikes, Parajanov sets up crosses in his scenery, a constant reminder of how this community turns to spiritualism when confronted by life’s hardships, especially marking occasions of weddings and funerals with their own uniquely Hutsul rituals. Having been raised in this culture of pervasive religious dominance, Ivan comes to depend on his connection to the divine as a manner to transcend the material world and maintain contact with his lost love. As we witness in a colourful, hypnotic montage dissolving between Ivan’s thoughtful face in prayer and Orthodox iconography of Christ, this belief is his saving grace, injecting a peaceful radiance in the middle of an otherwise entirely black-and-white sequence of the film following Marichka’s death. Though the montage is short-lived, colour does eventually return to Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors with the arrival of Palahna, Ivan’s new love, this time becoming a more permanent fixture.

A colour montage made up of long dissolves, firmly binding Ivan to his Orthodox beliefs.

With the introduction of pagan phenomena in the film’s final act, the Christian bedrock of Ivan’s life starts to destabilise, as restless spirits and sorcerers disrupt the Hutsul traditions that Parajanov has so painstakingly detailed. Still, this shift in focus does not even slightly signify a shift in momentum, as his camera continues to spin, whip, twirl, tilt, pan, and track characters across the village’s rocky rivers, snowy forests, and rustic interiors, finding strikingly surreal compositions in each of these settings. Not everything he does falls in line with the rest of the film, as at times Parajanov seems more invested in his erratic whims of visual artistry than tying it all together, but there is still powerful form to this fable. In clashing directly with the religious and cultural customs it is depicting, the disorientating, energetic experiments of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors effectively shake off the stagnancy of this village’s repetitive lifestyle, instead settings its sights on the haunting mysticism which lies just beyond the boundaries of a narrow-minded society, and within the minds of its own characters.

Too many painterly images to include on one page. Parajanov is a thoroughly experimental artist, always finding the most strikingly audacious angle or composition for any given scene.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is currently unavailable to watch in Australia.

The Producers (1967)

Mel Brooks | 1hr 28min

Mel Brooks may be a greater writer than he is a director, but there is no holding back in either department when it comes to his film debut, The Producers. He wastes no time in zooming from one plot point to the next like a Marx Brothers routine, and it takes great comedic talents like those of Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel to not just match his brisk pace, but to push it even further. On top of that, The Producers would simply not work if Brooks had anything less than a full ensemble giving it their all in sending up the executives, directors, actors, writers, and even accountants of the musical theatre industry, in all their highly-strung, neurotic quirks.

Brooks’ main and supporting roles take turns playing the fool and the straight man as each scene sees fit, and yet all of their idiosyncrasies are always kept in mind to realise the full comedic potential of each interaction. These are some of Brooks’ best characters, and the groundwork he does in building them up makes for remarkable farcical pay-offs that almost always call back to established running gags and key character traits, from Max Bialystock’s willingness to degrade himself to hysterical lows for money, to Roger De Bris’ vain conviction that self-expression is humanity’s most noble pursuit.

This frenzied opening sequence heightened by manic freeze frames, paired with the opening credits.

Continuing to lift The Producers above many of Brooks’ other directorial efforts is the pure insanity of his editing choices, as he builds the opening credits from freeze frames of Max’s sweaty face in the midst of a playful yet desperate affair with an older woman, trying to extract money from her. Later, Brooks’ set décor vividly complements the lunacy of the characters that inhabit them – the red walls of the restaurant, the blue curtains of the bar, the oranges and whites of Max’s office, and especially the yellow patterned wallpaper of Roger De Bris’ apartment, luridly clashing with the theatre director’s blue, sequinned dress.

Bright, garish production design, always reflecting the insanity of the characters.

Finally, we reach the brazenly offensive musical production, ‘Springtime for Hitler’, complete with pretzel bras and a Busby Berkeley-style dancing swastika. As the camp tastelessness of these artists is revealed in the flamboyant, Nazi regalia, Brooks’ abject, visual artistry fully manifests in all its scandalous glory. And then, just as that reaches its peak, so too does his hilarious send-up of these entitled creators who rip through hallowed topics with reckless abandon, monetising controversy for their own tactless, selfish purposes.

A blend of Nazi regalia and show-stopping Busby Berkeley choreography – the entire ‘Springtime for Hitler’ musical sequence is Brooks at his most comically irreverent, satirising the entertainment industry’s grotesque exploitation of sacrosanct subject matter.

The Producers is available to rent or buy on YouTube.

L’Avventura (1960)

Michelangelo Antonioni | 2hr 25min

When young, affluent socialite Anna disappears on a boating holiday, little changes within her social circle. Her friend, Claudia, and lover, Sandro, wander the Sicilian coastline together, leisurely tracing any clues that might explain what happened, but this new gap that has opened up in their lives barely registers. The emptiness they feel has always been there; it is now just a little wider than before. They flirt and make love, trying to fill it in with something, anything. And yet everything they grasp at disintegrates in their fingers, leaving them nothing but a haunting, existential ennui through which they are paradoxically both isolated and unified. 
In L’Avventura, Michelangelo Antonioni’s characteristic use of architecture extends beyond the angular, modernist structures of the 1960s, as the breath-taking Aeolian Islands rise up into the scenery to permeate the landscape with rocky outcrops and cliffs. The metaphor of individuals as lonely islands in an expansive sea isn’t easily lost in the unambiguous dialogue, but its true power lies in the crisp, greyscale imagery. Harsh blacks and whites are almost non-existent, as Antonioni opts for low contrast photography which matches shades so closely that the permanently overcast sky virtually blends in with the sea. 

An arresting greyscale palette in this harsh, coastal landscape.

When it comes to framing his affluent characters within these gorgeous compositions, his deep focus lens is the tool he returns to again and again, staggering bodies from the foreground to the background, turned in all different directions. For these men and women, merely the act of making eye contact requires mental effort. Instead, they are left to morosely wander through natural landforms and artificial structures, unable to find any connection to each other, let alone their lost friend. 

Disconnection through blocking. Staggered across layers of the image, and not a hint of eye contact.

At one point on their meaningless quest for answers, Claudia and Sandro venture to a church where ropes stretch across its rooftop balcony. With Anna no longer between them, the two are left to consider how their relationship may evolve from this point on, and upon this sacred ground the prospect of marriage is raised. It is an off-hand comment, thrown out with little thought, and the contemplation that follows only cheapens the spiritual union by appealing to it as nothing but a cure for their chronic loneliness. During this deliberation, Claudia leans on one of the ropes, and accidentally tolls a church bell. In response, church bells from across the city start chiming in response, and suddenly a wide, honest smile stretches across her face. Though it is brief and arbitrary, she rejoices in this connection, this small moment of belonging to the larger world holding more significance for her than any other relationship she has encountered. 
Like his Italian contemporaries, Antonioni firmly roots his style in the neorealism of the 1940s and 50s, shooting on location to ground his settings in a world he and his viewers are familiar with. The primary difference here is that Antonioni’s focus isn’t on the struggles of the downtrodden, or the heartbreaking impact of war and poverty. Rather the direct opposite, in fact, as Claudia, Sandro, and their friends lack any experience of earth-shattering events that might justify their constant state of discontent. For the Italian bourgeoisie who sit untouched above the rest of society, there is such a thin line between existence and non-existence that the disappearance of a friend barely registers. The only tangible truths out there are those huge, material constructions which tower over the city, like odes to the superfluity of human progress. 

Antonioni always believed that social problems should remain secondary to cinema itself, which would certainly earn him criticisms today of “style over substance”, if that accusation actually meant anything. The vapidity of his characters should certainly not be mistaken for a flat artistic vision, as L’Avventura poignantly expresses a broad dissatisfaction with society, modernity, and above all, the fact that one even feels dissatisfied in the first place.

An immaculate melding of both natural and artificial landforms in the final shot – lonely souls lost in a harsh, modern world. An all-time great ending.

L’Avventura is currently available to stream on Kanopy, Mubi Australia, and The Criterion Channel.