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Red Desert

Red Desert (1964)

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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 0

audience

86

liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 4,811

My Rating

Movie Info

Red Desert (Il Deserto Rosso) once more combines the considerable talents of director Michelangelo Antonioni and star Monica Vitti. Cast as Giuliana, an unhappy wife, Vitti suffers from an unnamed form of depression and malaise. Her quicksilver emotional shifts disturb everyone around her, but they, like she, pretend that nothing is truly wrong. British engineer Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris) seems to understand what Giuliana is really after in life, and he acts upon it by entering into an

Sep 21, 1999

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All Critics (22) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (22) | Rotten (0) | DVD (2)

Swoon, ye 21st-century philistines, before the cataract of existential glamour that is Antonioni's Il deserto rosso,

August 30, 2011 Full Review Source: Village Voice | Comments (2)
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film's most spellbinding sequence depicts a pantheistic, utopian fantasy of innocence, which she recounts to her ailing son.

July 31, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Red Desert is at once the most beautiful, the most simple and the most daring film yet made by Italy's masterful Michelangelo Antonioni.

July 31, 2007 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Perhaps the most extraordinary and riveting film of Antonioni's entire career; and correspondingly impossible to synopsise.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This flawed masterpiece is a political film, anger seething beneath the seductively beautiful surface, and a contrast to the surrounding devastation is provided by a simple fable told to a small boy by his mother.

July 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Antonioni's sense of design and how the environment inevitably influences his characters is masterly.

July 27, 2012 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

It seems fitting that every frame should be rich with sorrow.

July 27, 2012 Full Review Source: The List
The List

A strikingly original, melancholy work executed with painterly precision and still one of the more underrated films from this innovative director.

July 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

What a mysterious film it is, with much to perplex and even exasperate, but much to fascinate as well.

July 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Guardian
Guardian

Almost half a century on, Red Desert remains a film of rare beauty and brooding erotic intensity.

July 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

Red Desert is Antonioni's clearest, most striking statement of purpose - and one of cinema's great films.

July 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

A stunningly beautiful and evocative use of colour and setting.

July 23, 2012 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Thematically, Red Desert is a distillation of Antonioni's preferred themes and imagery: alienation, anxiety, modern life, and industrialized landscapes.

August 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

The effect is perhaps even more astounding than in his black and white films. Now, more so than using just shapes and spaces, Antonioni now gets to play with bright colors, and lack of colors.

May 6, 2011 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

a multi-layered treasure that offers much, but never easily

June 28, 2010 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

[Antonioni] casts a hypnotic spell, his every frame is impeccably composed and painted... and his imagery stripped of extraneous details...

June 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Parallax View
Parallax View

Savor every image and every sound. Few directors have created audiovisual landscapes as lush as Antonioni's.

June 22, 2010 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

In some ways, this is Art House 101 stuff -- the kind of movie you just know is good for you, because it's so dull and depressing.That, however, is merely one aspect of it.

July 5, 2006 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Fantastically haunting psychological drama.

April 22, 2004 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

This was Antonioni's first color film and perhaps his most extreme early effort at manipulating the visual images on the screen.

March 10, 2003 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Audience Reviews for Red Desert

Being Antonioni's first color film, one cannot help be stirred by his masterful use of it. By muting colors with filters-and of course with a little help from paint-he introduces us to an industrial Italy. One void of all the romanticism associated with places like Venice. A place replete with drab grays & brown, where even fruit on roadside stands have lost their hue.
It is a world changing. One in which our protagonist Giuliani, played by Monica Vitti, cannot readily accept.
The way in which Antonioni captures these new machines, with a sense of eerie wonder, makes it easy to understand why Giuliana would be so unsettled by this new existence. Even Antonioni seems to easily get sidetracked by the awesome power of these monstrous machines & man's relative insignificance when standing next to them.

In some ways, I would venture to call it an "industrial horror film." While my use of the term "horror" may raise a brow or two, for Giuliana, this new world is a genuine source of terror. The mechanical screams constantly pierce the air, causing Giuliana much distress. Antonioni frames scenes in which it appears that giant cargo ships are sailing right toward Giuliana, threatening to take her out in the march toward progress.
In fact, Giuliana doesn't even feel at ease inside her own home. Haunted by her son's constant contact with these new technologies & other abject horrors not seen by the audience, Giuliana seems to rarely be in a state not consumed with fear. Antonioni exacerbates this fear with his camera, giving her very little room to breathe and in some instances, even backing her into corners. All of this tension is heightened by a superb electronic score which is at times as equally unsettling for the viewer. Overall, a provocative visual exercise & an interesting look at industrial Italy.
March 13, 2012
axadntpron
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

Absolutely stunning! Environmental composition, landscape, and color have never been used so effectively to convey state of mind. The industrial climate is an apt counterpoint to Vitti's neuroticism and lack of adaptibility. A daring and innovative cinematic achievement!!
July 19, 2010
bookmunki

Super Reviewer

Well, no one can accuse this film of having too much plot. But the lead actors are charismatic, and the landscapes are striking.

Really, it's more of a situation than a story. The setting is a drab, seaside industrial factory. The sky is overcast and foggy. The water is choked with pollution. Monica Vitti plays the plant manager's wife, who is fresh from a suicide attempt. The implication is that her alienation and anxieties are a product of our modern, industrialized society. She dotes on her young son, but even he adds to her worries by faking polio for attention. She meets Richard Harris (awkwardly dubbed in Italian), an engineer passing through on business. Maybe he can provide her with some solace. Maybe not.

The film's central message arrives when Harris ruefully notes that the world prioritizes humanity below progress, but above justice. Hmm.

This was director Michelangelo Antonioni's first work in color, and the frame is dominated by muddy reds, grays, beiges and browns. There is no "desert" -- only a sense of desolation. Meanwhile, the sparse, electronic soundtrack is highly unusual, and vital to the film's chilly atmosphere. Metallic whirrs and drones subtly comment on Giuliana's malaise. No violins this time.

The most entertaining scene is clearly a sequence inside a tiny, deteriorating shack where an unlikely orgy threatens to occur. But instead, the action de-evolves into Harris and others nihilistically tearing wooden planks from the walls to feed the stove. Another notable diversion is a fantasy segment in which Giuliana tells her son an escapist tale about a girl living in happy isolation on some mythic, sunny island.

Antonioni has said "Red Desert" is not intended to be entirely pessimistic and, indeed, a flicker of hope finally comes when Giuliana observes that the birds overhead have learned to simply *avoid* the factory's plumes of yellow, toxic smoke. Adaptation seems to be the answer.

Some will find this film evocative, but others will have little to do but marvel at Vitti's exquisite hair.
February 18, 2010
Eric Broome

Super Reviewer

A very strange and somewhat hard to follow film but one that has a atmospheric and appropriate setting. You feel a sense of despair that the environment and it's star, Giuliana, portray.
February 18, 2011
Chris Browning

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Il deserto rosso (DE)
  • Red Desert (Il deserto rosso) (UK)
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