This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
Tell me you love me. I love you. Tell me you don't. I don't love you.
By the time this exchange takes place, deep inside Michelangelo Antonioni's "L'Avventura," the conversation has nothing to do with love. It is more like an attempt to pass the time--like a game of solitaire, or flipping a coin. There is not even the possibility that the characters are in love, can love, have loved, will love. "Too shallow to be truly lonely," Pauline Kael wrote, "they are people trying to escape their boredom by reaching out to one another and finding only boredom once again."
"L'Avventura" created a stir in 1960, when Kael picked it as the best film of the year. It was seen as the flip side of Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." Both directors were Italian, both depicted their characters in a fruitless search for sensual pleasure, both films ended at dawn with emptiness and soul-sickness. But Fellini's characters, who were middle-class and had lusty appetites, at least were hopeful on their way to despair. For Antonioni's idle and decadent rich people, pleasure is anything that momentarily distracts them from the lethal ennui of their existence. Kael again: "The characters are active only in trying to discharge their anxiety: Sex is their sole means of contact."
The plot of "L'Avventura" became famous because, it was said, nothing happened in the movie. What we saw was a search without a conclusion, a disappearance without a solution. The title in English means "The Adventure," and it was not hard to imagine Antonioni's dry smile as he penned those words on the first page of his screenplay.