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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 July 2007, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Obituary: Michelangelo Antonioni
Michelangelo Antonioni with his wife Enrica Fico
Antonioni married second wife Enrica Fico in 1986, shortly after his stroke
Michelangelo Antonioni, who has died at the age of 94, was seen as one of the great Italian film-makers whose iconic films have entered into cinematic history.

Directing was in his sights from an early age. He studied film at the School of Cinema and briefly wrote for the Fascist journal Cinema - at the time edited by Benito Mussolini's son.

His films were known for their slow pace, sparse dialogue and lack of a structured narrative, which did not always appeal to mainstream audiences but captured the imagination of critics and fans of the avant-garde.

But he refused to change his style to secure box office success.

Asked who he made his films for, he said: "I do it for an ideal spectator who is this very director.

"I could never do something against my tastes to meet the public. Frankly, I can't do it, even if so many directors do so."

Sexually explicit

His most famous film was Blow-Up in 1966, his first foray into the international market.

The English language film was set against the backdrop of "swinging '60s" London, and starred Vanessa Redgrave and the late David Hemmings.

It was essentially a murder mystery but by choosing a photographer as its central character it was able to capture all that was fascinating about London and its thriving fashion scene.

Its popularity was also helped by its sexually explicit nature - which for the era was seen as risque.

Blow-Up was part of a three-film deal with famed Italian producer Carlo Ponti - who died in January - with each being made in English and released through MGM.

Blow-Up saw Antonioni nominated for an Academy Award for best director, losing out on the night to Fred Zinnemann for A Man for All Seasons.

The second of his films for Ponti, Zabriskie Point, was set in the US and largely panned by critics, who saw it as self-indulgent.

The Passenger in 1975, starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider, was set across Europe and North Africa and this time received critical praise.

Born in the northern city of Ferrara, Antonioni studied economics at the University of Bologna.

Bernardo Bertolucci and Michelangelo Antonioni
Bernardo Bertolucci (l) and Antonioni both hold iconic status
He began making short films in the 1940s after working with other esteemed film-makers, including Marcel Carne and Enrico Fulchignoni.

His first full-length film, Cronaca di Un Amore, was released in 1950 but it was not until L'avventura in 1960 that he achieved wider fame.

The film went on to win the Jury Prize at the Cannes Festival, despite being roundly booed by the audience at the screening.

L'avventura also introduced Italian actress Monica Vitti, who was to work on another three films for Antonioni - Notte (The Night), L'Eclisse (Eclipse) and Il Deserto Rosso (The Red Desert), his first colour picture.

'Metaphors that illuminate'

A serious stroke in the 1980s left him partially paralysed and unable to speak, effectively putting his film-making career on hold.

His second wife, Enrica Fico, acted as his translator following his stroke.

But in 1995 he released Beyond the Clouds, which was co-directed by Wim Wenders and based on a series of Antonioni's short stories.

The same year he was also handed a lifetime achievement Academy Award, which was presented to him by Jack Nicholson. The Oscar statue was later stolen from his Rome apartment.

"In the empty, silent spaces of the world, he has found metaphors that illuminate the silent places our hearts, and found in them, too, a strange and terrible beauty: austere, elegant, enigmatic, haunting," said Nicholson.

His final cinematic contribution was to the collaborative effort Eros in 2004, which featured three short stories directed by Steven Soderbergh, Wong Kar Wai and Antonioni, addressing the themes of love and sex.




SEE ALSO
Blow-Up director Antonioni dies
31 Jul 07 |  Entertainment

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