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FILM ANTONIONI Barthes: “. ..vigilance, wisdom and fragility.”

FSFF is doing Antonioni this week.

Looking through the academic papers Catherine has listed the divide between film and what is written about it seems enormous. The density and opacity of jargon-filled texts often seem to bear no relation to a film viewed on screen.

Picked out Laura Rascaroli and John David Rhodes, ‘INTERSTITIAL, PRETENTIOUS, ALIENATED, DEAD: Antonioni at 100’, in Rascaroli and Rhodes (eds), Antonioni: Centenary Essays (BFI/Palgrave, 2011).

This is the intro essay by the editors in the collection.

The story is the screening of L’Aventura [1960] at the 13th. Cannes Film Festival. The audience hated it.


Michelangelo Antonioni and Monica Vitti, director and protagonist of the film, emerged from the projection in tears, devastated by the audience’s scathing reaction, but awoke the following morning to find, hanging from a wall in the hall of their hotel, a typewritten letter of support signed by a long list of directors, technicians, actors and critics (among many others, Roberto
Rossellini, Georges Sadoul, Janine Bazin, Anatole Dauman, André S. Labarthe and Alain Cuny). The short letter read: Conscious of the exceptional importance of Michelangelo Antonioni’s film, L’avventura, and appalled by the demonstrations of hostility it has aroused, the undersigned professionals and critics wish to express all their admiration to the author of this film.

Roland Barthes wrote an open letter, Cher Antonioni, which was read out on 28 January 1980 at a ceremony in which the city of Bologna awarded him a civic honour.

In Michaelangelo: The Investigation by Seymour Chatman and Paul Duncan, Barthe’s letter is described as:


…..a dense and insightful one and one of the most elegant pieces ever written about a film-maker.

Following paragraph:

There is a 6 part Youtube of a BBC Arena programme, Dear Antonioni…, aired on 18 January 1997, which uses Barthes’ letter to frame an essay on Antonioni. Included amongst the commentators is Alain Robbe-Grillet. Ever try one of his novels? Erk. Note he wrote screenplay for Alain Renais’ Last Year in Marienbad.

May 24, 2012 Posted by | Antonioni | , | 1 Comment

The fate of books depends on the discernment of the reader

Pro captu lectoris habent sua fata libelli.
The fate of books depends on the discernment of the reader.

– Terentius Maurus, De Literis, Syllabis et Metris (1286)



The task had been to find something to explain simply Barthes’s, “To Write: An Intransitive Verb?”. There was nothing I could understand much of. The surf came to a natural end with an essay, A Blueprint for Melville’s “Bartleby”, by Steven C. Scheer – not what I was looking for but clearly written, not full of jargon, interesting and informative: a serependipity – arrived on my screen because he cites Barthes’s essay at the bottom of the page, which in turn led me to his home site and two nice long essays, The Art of Reading, from which the quote above came, and A Writer’s Notes on Writing.

He has a blogspot, Words Matter, which he has written occasionally to, but there are several very interesting posts, including one on Hellen Keller.

October 15, 2007 Posted by | Barthes, Book, Literature, non-fiction, readability, Reader, reading, The fate of books, Writing | , , , | Leave a comment