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Bumping off Casablanca for L'Avventura

By Dennis Clemente

I have long had my favorite 3 movies as, in order, The Godfather, Vertigo, and Casablanca for the longest time. This time, I am going to make room for L'Avventura as my third best favorite movie, bumping Casablanca down a notch.

Casablanca is a movie I don't mind watching over and over again; it's grand entertainment. It is a sentimental choice. L'Avventura, on the other hand, is a cineaste's delight. I see how Antonioni makes economical use of dialogue to convey mood and behavior; film is a visual medium, after all. In the Italian movie, the mystery story is in reverse--the solution is offered in the beginning, the rest is a mystery. For its time, that was an ingenious denouement.

Movies typically heighten our emotions with music. Here, thankfully, there is hardly any of that "device." You rely on aural sensations generated by an unworded gesture or look that can already speak volumes. Many have attempted this sort of elliptical filmmaking, and even Antonioni had to fail over and over before he finally nailed it.

I have seen hundreds of classic European movies and just saw this recently. Yes, the movie is in black and white. But the images, in DVD of stellar quality, is crisp, the more to appreciate every scene of the movie, which is nearly impossibly perfect. Antonioni is the poet of cinema.