31 July 2016 | treywillwest
This is the only one of Antonioni's films that was clearly reshaped, to some degree, by the censors. It begins and ends with moralistic announcements about how the youth of the film's post-war today treat murder and brutality as a path towards notoriety in the press, implying that the political upheaval of the era had made the kids bloodthirsty. This "public service announcement" then demonizes both the characters of the film, many of whom will commit or take credit for a murder, and the insurrectionary movements that were gripping Italy at the time, with the voice of a prosaic humanism that was wholly alien to Antonioni, and the true spirit of this work.
The triptych of stories of youth in major European cities getting violent is, as is typical of the auteur, extremely detached and non-judgmental. The first, about a bunch of Parisian kids killing their rich friend, is pretty prosaic both narratively and visually. The one exception to the latter is a great shot when a huge, remote control plane comes diving down on a field from nowhere, technology once again making the natural world seem alien and unnatural as it so often does for this director.
Perhaps the strongest, if not the most intriguing, segment is the middle one in the filmmaker's native language. The student son of a boughie Rome family gets involved with smuggling for kicks, and ends up very much living the consequences of his criminal path. This is the closest Antonioni ever came to making pure noir, with a brilliant chase scene on and through a bridge, with magnificent chiaroscuro compositions. This segment, with its privileged rebel earning the consequences of a violent path, seems to me to be a pre-cursor of Antonioni's magnum opus, The Passenger.
The final, English segment has many, widely reported, elements that will be more fully developed in Blow-Up. In both, an off-putting British youth finds a murder victim in a park and attempts to exploit it for media/art's sake. There are a few fine examples of "Antonioni streets" and character blocking, but mostly this segment is notable for how authentically British it feels, much more so than Blow-Up.
The afore mentioned book-ending add ons by the authorities try to shift the audience's perspective to that of the jury that confronts the main subject of one of the segments. But they're not fooling anyone. As he revealed in his "English language trilogy" Antonioni clearly identifies with the random violence of the "youth of today" and perhaps sees it as necessary for liberation. When the lead character of one segment announces that, "the end of a human life is of no significance" we are meant to identify with the speaker, not shudder at his words