• L'Eclisse (Umbrella Entertainment) DVD Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Release date: June 6, 2018
    Directed by: Michelangelo Antonioni
    Cast: Monica Vitti, Alain Delon, Francisco Rabal, Louis Seigner, Rosanna Rory, Mirella Ricciardi, Lilla Brignone, Rosanna Rory
    Year: 1962
    Purchase From Amazon

    L’Eclisse – The Movie:

    A woman named Vittoria (Vitti) and her boyfriend, Riccardo (Rabal), sit up all night talking about their crappy relationship, and in the morning decide to break up. She starts spending a lot of time with her mother (Brignone), who fills her otherwise empty life by hanging out at the local stock exchange. In due course, Vittoria hooks up with Piero (Delon), her mother’s stockbroker, and hangs out with friends Anita (Rory) and Marta (Ricciardi), the latter of whom reveals herself as an appalling racist. People talk, and then they walk around, and then they talk some more, and then they walk around some more. It’s all very exciting stuff.

    Upon its release, critics retroactively declared L’Eclisse (The Eclipse) the third film in a trilogy—although the director, Michelangelo Antonioni, himself never connected those particular dots. The first two of the three, 1960’s L’Avventura (The Adventure) and 1961’s La Notte (The Night) were the sixth and seventh feature-length efforts in a cinematic career that began in 1941 and ended in 2004, three years before Antonioni’s death at age 94.

    L’Avventura and La Notte were pretty much beloved by critics from the get-go, but it took audiences some time to warm up to Antonioni’s slow and oh-so-deep cinematic approach. L’Avventura was booed by audiences when it premiered at Cannes in 1960 and won nothing. La Notte did a little better the following year, though not much after that. L’Eclisse, on the other hand, won the Special Jury Prize and was nominated for the Palme d’Or. Still; regardless, it wasn’t until 1965’s Il Deserto Rosso (Red Desert), Antonioni’s first color film, that audiences at large caught up with the critical establishment’s admiration of the director. The deal was sealed the following year with the brilliant Blow-Up, considered by most of those in the know to be his masterpiece.

    Whether you find L’Eclisse interesting or off-putting will probably depend on how well you can tolerate relinquishing control of your time to stare at what are practically still images. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get into it. No less an authority than Orson Wells once commented: “I don't like to dwell on things. It's one of the reasons I'm so bored with Antonioni—the belief that, because a shot is good, it's going to get better if you keep looking at it. He gives you a full shot of somebody walking down a road. And you think, 'Well, he's not going to carry that woman all the way up that road.' But he does. And then she leaves and you go on looking at the road after she's gone.”

    L'Eclisse – Video/Audio/Extras:

    Umbrella brings L’Eclisse to standard DVD without a single extra, not even a menu screen. Presented in standard definition, the film unfolds in anamorphic widescreen at a ratio of 1.85:1. According to the box, the NTSC presentation is Region 4, but it played just fine on this reviewer’s Region 1 machine, suggesting that it’s actually set to Region 0. There’s the usual debate surrounding what ratio European films from the 1960s should be, but there’s plenty of head room, with Antonioni’s painterly compositions given ample breathing space. The presentation was clearly taken from a hi-def source and generally looks good, with the crisp black-and-white photography showcasing a surprising amount of detail in costumes, faces, furniture, foliage, and architecture. Daytime scenes look the best and feature a strong greyscale; nighttime and darker sequences far a little worse, with a loss of some detail due to minor crush. Don’t expect much dirt and debris, as both are extremely rare here. It should also be noted that sometimes during movement, the area surrounding the object moving (usually people) gets a little blocky, and there’s occasional ghosting. The image also appears to have been scrubbed free of grain in some instances; this doesn’t result in the kind of waxiness one associates with heavy DNR on Blu-ray discs—in part due to the lesser quality of standard definition (where nothing appears as sharp as its hi-def counterpart)—but it’s still problematic.

    Most machines will read the film’s soundtrack as being presented in Italian Dolby Digital 2.0, though it’s really the original mono track threaded through dual speakers in your home theater setup. Still, the sound is fairly good. The music is understated, with ambient and natural sounds providing most of the background effects. Dialogue is at the forefront where it belongs and is crisp and clear with no interference from the sound effects. Some of the voices don’t quite match, thanks to the film’s original post-production syncing (and, for the record, Alain Delon, a French actor and speaker, was dubbed into Italian). For those who don’t speak Italian, there are optional English subtitles.

    L’Eclisse – The Final Word:

    L’Eclisse is a boring film, though a few cineastes will undoubtedly find it to their tastes. It pales in comparison to the far superior Blow-Up, which remains Antonioni’s masterpiece. A nice transfer (with a few hiccups) is offset by a lack of menu screen and extras of any sort. True cinephiles may prefer to check out the Criterion Blu, which utilizes the same transfer to much better effect and comes with a number of extras.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the Silent Era and Horror Films of the 1930s are currently available, with Horror Films of the 1940s due out in 2019.