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Red Desert (The Criterion Collection)

3.9 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

A neurotic woman seeks an outlet with her husband's colleague. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.

As Michelangelo Antonioni's first color film, Red Desert continues the director's Italian neorealist examinations of human anxieties induced by industrialization. Made in 1964, the film chronicles a neurotic woman, Giuliana (Monica Vitti), who suffers from loneliness and estrangement from her factory worker husband, Ugo (Carlo Chionetti). While in the opening scenes Giuliana totes around her son, Valerio (Valerio Bartoleschi), a majority of the film focuses not on her role as mother but on her flirtation with Ugo's coworker, Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris). Throughout, human conflict unfolds in front of massive industrial landscapes that depict machinery and pollution to excessive degrees. Giuliana, established as somewhat of an unreliable narrator after she admits existential angst caused by a car accident that was intentional on her part, comes to look like the most sympathetic character by the end, compared to the others' cold distance. At the root of her illness is a woman who "wanted it all," as she says, when really all she wants is some purpose and connection. Shots capturing oily pools, electrical wires blocking the sky, and blaringly loud factory gear reinforce Giuliana's disconnect. Later in the film, one sees the familial repercussions of her inability to get a grasp on love, as little Valerio reenters the story. Even the title, Red Desert, sets up this film as a study in how color can manipulate the viewer's emotions. Each shot, each scene, is so carefully composed that it has an almost eerie staged feel. A wonderfully funny, sexy sequence mid-film, in which Ugo, Giuliana, and Corrado visit a shack populated by bored, sex-crazed girls, lightens what is a rather melancholic portrayal of brewing madness.

Criterion Collection's treatment of Red Desert is excellent, as well. Two short black-and-white Antonioni documentaries, "N.U." and "Gente del Po," illustrate this director's earlier attempts at capturing on film the modern dilemma facing humans at the hands of burgeoning technology. Two archival interviews, one with Antonioni and one with Vitti, are full of rich anecdotal background information about the inspiration for Red Desert and L'Avventura. Even the film's dailies are included in the supplements so one can see how Antonioni composed and pulled off his amazing camera work. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Audio commentary by Italian film scholar David Forgacs
  • Archival video interviews with Michelangelo Antonioni and actress Monica Vitti
  • Outtakes from the film's production
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film historian Mark Le Fanu
  • An interview with Antonioni by Jean-Luc Godard
  • A reprinted essay by Antonioni on his use of color
  • And More!

  • Product Details

    • Actors: Richard Harris, Monica Vitti
    • Directors: Michelangelo Antonioni
    • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
    • Language: Italian
    • Subtitles: English
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated:
      Not Rated
    • DVD Release Date: June 22, 2010
    • Run Time: 117 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B003D3Y64C
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,302 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "Red Desert (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Top Customer Reviews

    Format: DVD
    The usual cliche about Antonioni films is that they are studies of bored and alienated people, and are themselves vague and uninteresting. This line was started by Pauline Kael and is repeated by Leonard Maltin above, with not a second thought. But it is utterly wrong, and never more so than in the case of Red Desert. The main character Giuliana (Monica Vitti) is not bored - she is if anything too sensitively engaged with the world. She suffers from it as an artist suffers, feeling it in every part of her. (Her point of view is represented by Antonioni's careful abstract compositions, his beautiful use of colour.) But she also feels the lack of her husband's and son's love and it is this that drives her into an to attraction to Corrado (Richard Harris). He in turn is attracted to her and pretends to a closeness that he doesn't fully feel. The dynamics of this seduction are beautifully observed and movingly real.
    But it is the character of Giuliana that drives the film. She seems to possess an integrity in her suffering that sets her apart. Antonioni seems to be searching her soul as he allows the camera to dwell on her expressions of hurt and desperation (as Godard did with Anna Karina). And Monica Vitti is so beautiful that it is ultimately painful to watch her. But as for the standard opinion - the only people who could be bored by this film are those who are bored with feeling itself. This is a masterpiece of observed sensitivity - a study of the heart's war on consciousness. It must be seen.
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    Format: Blu-ray
    In 1964, Michelangelo Antonioni (who has earned the nickname "the Master of Alienation") screened his film "Il deserto rosso" (Red Desert) at the 1964 Venice Film Festival and the director took home the highly coveted Golden Lion award as well as the FIPRESCI Prize.

    The Italian modernist director was known for his radical new style, not following any convention of filmmaking and most of all, characters and events are disconnected. Known for his trilogy, beginning with "L'avventura" (1960), the film was an international success and would introduce the world to the actress Monica Vitti, a woman who would appear as the main character in several of his films. Antonioni returned with "La Notte" (1961) starring Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni and Monica Vitti which focused on the slow death of a marriage and final of the trilogy "L'Eclisse" would focus on the alienation of man in the modern world.

    "Red Desert" is the fourth and final film that Antonioni's muse Monica Vitti would be featured in a film of his (the director would move on to focus his film on a male character). The film would also feature the director filming in color for the first time.


    "Red Desert" is presented in 1080p (1:85:1 Aspect Ratio). According to Criterion, the new HD transfer for "Red Desert" was created on a Spirit HD 2K Datacine from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.

    It's important to note that Antonioni wanted to capture a certain look.
    Read more ›
    4 Comments 40 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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    Format: DVD
    5 stars to the film itself! Here's a painful study of a woman's descent to lunacy amidst a desolate, uncaring and eventually foreboding backdrop of industrial waste. The character study is not unlike claustrophobic Polanski's Repulsion but dwells on Vitti's being consumed by her external surroundings as opposed to Deneuve's intensive plunge to schizophrenia. The pace and landscape is virtual Antonioni so it may not appeal to viewers who are not familiar with the director's works. One of his greatest works (L'Avventura remains his best to me). The only problem is the DVD transfer. I've seen the VHS and it has a consistent hue of orange. The DVD, although sharper and clearer, fluctuates in hues from blues in medium shots to reds and oranges in long shots. For a film that essentially deals with color (it was Antonioni's first color feature), the transfer was rather clumsy and careless. The sound is average but leaves a lot of room for improvement. Why didn't Criterion handle the transfer of this gorgeous film?
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    Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
    I sat through this film twice when it first came out in the1960's. I have seen it many times over the years. The painterly imagesare rich, lonely, and seductive. Antonioni is a painter making film. The plot is secondary. Monica Vitti is an ancient goddess trapped in the dead, souless corporate world. Being a trophy wife is making her crazy. Do the men we love ever really love us? Is modern man trapped in sterile scientific thinking and cut off from the passion of the archaic world? I love this beautiful movie. I'm so happy it's being released.
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    Format: Blu-ray
    It is good to have this film, one of Antonioni's finest and his first in color, available in a format that begins to do justice to its visual subtleties. It should really be seen in a theater, but a Criterion version is the next best thing. The last time I checked the critical consensus, Antonioni was still out of favor with the "with it" cognoscenti, but time will surely correct that oversight and give us good versions of all his films. We've had to put up with bad videos for so long. Those who are not familiar with Antonioni's work and need a clear story line should not waste their time, as Antonioni's films are all about character, mood, and that undefinable something extra which Monica Vitti captured so well in this film and the L'Avventura/La Notte/L'Eclisse trilogy.

    The special features on this issue are unusually valuable: an interview with Antonioni, shortly after the film's release; an interview with Monica Vitti about her work and her relationship with him, which was supposedly first shown on French television in 1991, but which surely must have been done earlier, because there is no mention of his tragically debilitating stroke; good prints of Antonioni's two early neo-realist documentaries, which already show his care of visual composition; and some black and white dailies, which highlight Antonion's care in composition and the light and shadow substrate of his brilliant use of color. These features have added immeasurably to my understanding of a film, which only improves with time. Thank you Criterion!
    5 Comments 39 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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