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Conference Focuses On Legendary Italian Filmmaker

Published: September 16, 2013

A one-day conference on legendary Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni arrives at CSULB’s Karl Anatol Center on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It is co-sponsored by the George L. Graziadio Center for Italian Studies, the Romance, German Russian Languages and Literatures department and the Film and Electronic Arts Department (thanks to its chair, Prof. Jerry Mosher). Enrico Vettore, associate professor of Italian Studies, has assembled an impressive lineup of scholars to reflect upon Antonioni’s unique cinematographic legacy.

“1912-2013: 101 Years of Michelangelo Antonioni” will feature Italian film scholars Murray Pomerance, Thomas Harrison, Mary Ann Carolan, Fulvio Orsitto and Fletcher Beasley. Their papers will explore the many facets of the creative output of a multi-talented artist who redefined the concept of narrative cinema and challenged traditional approaches to storytelling. The conference will conclude with a screening of the recently restored version of Antonioni’s “La Notte” from 1961.

Antonioni (1912-2007) was known for his trilogy on modernity and its discontents—“L’Avventura” (1960), “La Notte” (1961) and “Eclipse” (1962). He received numerous awards and nominations throughout his career, including the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize (1960 and 1962), Palme d’Or (1966), the Venice Film Festival Silver Lion (1955), Golden Lion (1964), the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon eight times, and an honorary Academy Award in 1995.

The conference opens with Harrison, a professor and chair of UCLA’s Department of Italian, who will set the tone with a lecture titled “Framing the Story: The Beginnings and Endings of Antonioni’s Films.” Next up will be Carolan from Connecticut’s Fairfield University, who serves as associate professor of modern languages and literatures. She recently authored The Transatlantic Gaze: Italian Cinema, American Film and will discuss Antonioni’s 1972 documentary of China’s Cultural Revolution titled “Chung Kuo – Cina.” She will be followed by Orsitto, Director of CSU Chico’s Italian and Italian-American Studies program. He is currently working on Italian-American and post-national Italian cinema. Pomerance, a Canadian film scholar from Ryerson University, will discuss Antonioni’s reportorial gaze. The program also will include Film and Electronic Arts’ Beasley who will discuss Antonioni’s use of music.

The conference will conclude with a 3 p.m. screening of the recently restored version of Antonioni’s “La Notte” starring Marcello Mastroianni and Monica Vitti. Shot in Milan, the film is about a day in the life of an unfaithful married couple and their deteriorating relationship. “Of all three films in Antonioni’s famous trilogy, `La Notte’ is the most approachable,” explained Vettore, a member of the Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures Department since 2007. “The more you watch it, the more you like it. It was our goal that this program would appeal not only to scholars but to the community as well. It was never our plan to make it too abstract.”

Vettore praised the department and the College of Liberal Arts for its commitment to outreach through such conferences as these.

“This department tries to be as active as possible,” he said. “Our department contributes a high percentage of the College of Liberal Arts’ events. We are always trying to organize events that demonstrate our mission as a center of language, literature and cultural studies. This conference is no different. It reminds us of Antonioni’s ongoing importance as a director who approached film from both a metaphysical and philosophical perspective.

“Antonioni was a humanist with a great interest in both humanity and science,” he added. “The goal of this conference is to understand Antonioni’s search for meaning in human beings and how they adapt to new worlds and to new times. These are themes that do not get old.”

Vettore also praised the student organization Club Italia for its participation in the conference and encourages the campus and community to attend.

“Those interested in Antonioni’s films, even if they have never seen them before, ought to attend to hear scholars from all over the world offer new insights into his work,” he said. “The audience will certainly be instilled with the desire to go back and watch these great films again. This is no dry academic environment. We worked hard to make this conference as accessible as possible.”

–Richard Manly