Houston Community News >> Retrospective Showing at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston

8/6/2007 Houston—In what has become the first posthumous retrospective, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will present the complete works of the legendary Italian filmmaker, Michelangelo Antonioni, who died on July 30, 2007 at age 94. More than 20 films by the modernist filmmaker, along with films about him, will screen at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Brown Auditorium Theater as part of the extraordinary retrospective, Homage to Antonioni. Continuing the MFAH’s commitment both to showcasing international films and to surveying the lifework of significant directors, and following last fall’s popular Tutto Fellini festival, audiences can further explore Italian cinema with the Homage to Antonioni series. Running from August 31 through October 7, the retrospective provides a special opportunity to see Antonioni classics on the big screen.

As with the Fellini series, the MFAH is one of the few American venues included in this touring retrospective, organized by Cinecitta Holding, the Italian film archive based in Rome. The Houston presentation opens with an hour-long documentary by Antonioni’s biographer, titled The Vision That Changed Cinema, followed by Antonioni’s earliest short films, and generally following the chronology of his career over six weekends. Among the films best known to U.S. audiences are L’Avventura, Red Desert, Blow-Up, and The Passenger. Selected screenings will be introduced by University of Houston professors Luisetta Chomel and Alessandro Carrera, who will provide audiences with scholarly insights about the subject matter, themes, and imagery that the award-winning filmmaker explored. The Brown Auditorium Theater is located within the MFAH’s Caroline Wiess Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet Street.

“The world lost a true visionary with the passing of Michelangelo Antonioni this week,” said MFAH film curator Marian Luntz. “This retrospective, months in the planning, becomes a fitting tribute to his life and career.”

The celebrated filmmaker was born on September 29, 1912 in Ferrara, Italy, to a middle-class family. Antonioni attended the University of Bologna from 1931 through 1935, where he majored in economics and commerce while simultaneously painting and working as a critic at a local newspaper, Il Corriere Padano. Antonioni’s interests very noticeably shifted towards cinema after he moved to Italy’s capital city, Rome, in 1939, where he wrote for the film magazine, Cinema, and studied directorship at the School of Cinema—Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. His first fictional feature, Story of a Love Affair, debuted in 1950. From that point forward, he primarily directed dramas, and would go on to establish a lengthy and highly-lauded film career.

Antonioni won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960 for L’ Avventura and took home the Jury Special Prize from the Cannes Film Festival in 1962 for L’ Eclisse. In 1964, he was awarded both a FIPRESCI Prize and a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Red Desert. In1967, he won a Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and took home an NSFC Award for Blowup—as well as receiving an Oscar nomination. 1982 brought him the 35th Anniversary Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for Identification of a Woman, and in 1983 he received the Career Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Antonioni also took home the European Film Awards’ Life Achievement Award in 1993; won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1995 for Beyond the Clouds; and received an Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 1995; among many other nominations and awards. In 2001, he was awarded a special citation by the National Society of Film Critics for the exemplary intelligence, creativity, and integrity of his half-century-long career. He suffered a stroke in 1985 which left him unable to speak, although his second wife, Erica, remained a constant companion, accompanying him to appearances in his remaining years.

There are a number of traits that distinguish Antonioni’s films and make them so unforgettable. He frequently uses ruggedly beautiful scenery as the setting where his dramas unfold, and the conflicted characters wander between the natural world and the decadent scenes of civilization, providing contrast between the two. His focus is primarily on the bourgeois class, and he is renowned for using alternative, sparse narrative structures to depict the alienation and existential struggles of his characters. Overall, the films do not provide easy answers to the questions they pose; rather, life is portrayed as complex and ambiguous, and audiences are forced to think about the scenes they have witnessed and arrive at their own answers.

Upon news of his death on July 30—by great coincidence, the same day that Antonioni’s contemporary, the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, died—a global outpouring of tributes appeared in newspapers, websites, and blogs.

Homage to Antonioni Film Festival: Screening Schedule
Thursday, August 30, 7 p.m. Antonioni: The Vision That Changed the Cinema
(Italy, 2001), Admission Free
Thursday, August 30, 8:30 p.m. Short Films, Part I (Italy, 1943-1964)
Friday, August 31, 7 p.m. Story of a Love Affair (Italy, 1950)
Saturday, September 1, 7 p.m. L’Avventura (Italy, 1960).
Introduction by Alessandro Carrera
Sunday, September 2, 7 p.m. Le Amiche (Italy, 1955)
Monday, September 3, 1 p.m. I Vinti (Italy, 1952)
Monday, September 3, 4 p.m. L’Avventura (Italy, 1960)
Monday, September 3, 7 p.m. The Lady without Camelias (Italy, 1953)
Friday, September 7, 7 p.m. Il Grido (Italy/USA, 1957)
Saturday, September 8, 7 p.m. Red Desert (Italy/France, 1964)
Introduction by Alessandro Carrera
Sunday, September 9, 7 p.m. La Notte (Italy/France, 1961)
Introduction by Luisetta Chomel
Friday, September 14, 7 p.m. Red Desert (Italy/France, 1964)
Saturday, September 15, 7 p.m. L’Eclisse (Italy/France, 1962)
Sunday, September 16, 1 p.m. Blow-Up (UK, 1966)
Sunday, September 16, 7:30 p.m. Blow-Up (UK, 1966)
Friday, September 21, 7 p.m. Zabriskie Point (USA, 1970)
Introduction by Alessandro Carrera
Friday, September 21, 9:30 p.m. Zabriskie Point (USA, 1970)
Saturday, September 22, 7 p.m. Beyond the Clouds (France/Italy/Germany, 1995)
Sunday, September 23, 7 p.m. Identification of a Woman (Italy, 1982)
Saturday, September 29, 7 p.m. Chung Kuo China, Part I (Italy/China, 1972)
Saturday, September 29, 8:30 p.m. Chung Kuo China, Part II (Italy/China, 1972)
Sunday, September 30, 5 p.m. Chung Kuo China, Part III (Italy/China, 1972)
Sunday, September 30, 7 p.m. The Mystery of Oberwald (Italy, 1980)
Friday, October 5, 7 p.m. The Passenger (Italy/France/Spain, 1975)
Introduction by Luisetta Chomel
Saturday, October 6, 7:30 p.m. Short Films, Part II (Italy, 1978-1997)
Sunday, October 7, 7 p.m. The Passenger (Italy/France/Spain, 1975)

Homage to Antonioni Sponsorship
Homage to Antonioni has been made possible by Cinecittà International, a division of Cinecittà Holding, with generous support from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Consulate General of Italy in Houston (Cristiano Maggipinto, Consul General), the Italian Institute of Culture in Los Angeles (Francesca Valente, Director), Ferrari Maserati of Houston (Giuseppe Risi), Hotel Granduca (Giorgio Borlenghi), the Italian Film Commission (Paola Bellusci), Franci Neely Crane, Gail Merel and Chris Dack.

Brown Auditorium Theater Box Office
General admission is $7. MFAH members, senior adults, and students with ID receive a $1 discount. Unless otherwise indicated, Film Buffs members are admitted free. Children 5 and under are admitted free. The MFAH Films box office can accept payment by cash, check, and credit cards. Tickets may be purchased in advance. Advance sales are available at the box office, online at www.mfah.org, or at Membership or Visitor Services desks in the Law and Beck Buildings during museum hours. The box office opens at 5:30 p.m. for weekend evening screenings and 30 minutes before the show time for other films.

MFAH Parking
The museum’s parking garage is in the MFAH Visitors Center, located at 5600 Fannin Street at Binz Street (entrance on Binz). Free parking is available in two lots on Main Street, at Bissonnet and at Oakdale.

Cafe Express at the MFAH
Cafe Express, located on the lower level of the Audrey Jones Beck Building, is now serving dinner and lighter fare for evening moviegoers. Each theater ticket purchase includes a discount coupon for the cafe. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Film Buffs
Movie lovers can join the MFAH Film Buffs and receive free admission to MFAH films, plus invitations to sneak previews, special events with visiting filmmakers, and lectures by film scholars. For more information, please call 713-639-7531.

MFAH Films Sponsorship
The MFAH Film department receives generous funding from Tenaris, Ternium, Consul Général de France à Houston, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, ILEX Foundation, the Lois Chiles Foundation, Franci Neely Crane, Louisa Stude Sarofim in honor of Nina and Michael Zilkha, Dr. and Mrs. A. Behrooz Ramesh, Mr. Monsour Taghdisi, the Consulate General of Spain, McKool Smith in honor of Sam Hesse, Mokaram & Associates, and Ms. Regina J. Rogers.

MFAH Films
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s film program is the largest of its kind in the southwestern United States. MFAH first began screening films in the 1930s, and the Brown Auditorium, located in the Caroline Wiess Law Building and designed by Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, opened in 1973. The auditorium immediately distinguished itself by having stadium seating 20 years before such design became the standard for American movie theaters, and because the Caroline Wiess Law Building is one of only two museums designed by this major twentieth-century architect. Marian Luntz, the film program director and curator of film and video at MFAH since 1990, continues the program’s tradition of showcasing a broad range of classic and contemporary Hollywood films, foreign language films, and premieres of independent films—many by local artists. Often, critics, scholars, and filmmakers come to the showings as visiting speakers to give audiences a deeper understanding of movies and moviemaking. In 2005 and 2006, MFAH Films was named “The Best Place to See Vintage Flicks” by the Houston Press.

Contact Museum of Fine Arts Houston: 713-639-7515, or www.mfah.org.