During a recent interview for the Armenian newspaper, Asbarez, I was asked to name the film that has most affected me as a filmmaker. My reply was swift: L’Avventura (1960) by Michelangelo Antonioni. It proved to me that a movie can be art.
I once had the privilege to hear philosopher Dallas Willard discuss film. He argued that a movie is either amusement, entertainment or art, and sometimes a combination thereof. Many incorrectly translated his position qualitatively, though that was not his point. He simply wanted to make a case for film as art.
Some of my favorite movies primarily amuse and entertain. Nothing cheers me up like Sixteen Candles (1984) or Happy Gilmore (1996). They touch me and affect me in ways art often does not. But as a filmmaker, the movies I most connect with, the ones that inspire me greatly are definite works of art. They are personally derived films without a set agenda or purpose. Rather, they seek to explore the human condition and, maybe, make some sense out of it.
I believe Michelangelo Antonioni did not set out to amuse or entertain with L’Avventura. It is my impression that he set out to explore specific aspects of life without a set conclusion. In fact, the ending of the film, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, suggests that Antonioni still had no conclusion to his questions, which invariably inspired his subsequent work.
Here is a link to Roger Ebert’s review of L’Avventura.
And here you can watch a clip from the film: