Michelangelo Antonioni furthers the ambitious efforts of his two preceding films with L'eclisse, making it a fitting conclusion to his early-'60s trilogy. With this in mind, the film's motifs seem familiar -- again Antonioni employs a cold, unromantic view of life and love centered on a dubious heroine. Yet even if L'eclisse doesn't explore any new territory, thematically or technically, one cannot deny its power. If anything, Antonioni refines his themes and techniques for this film, making Monica Vitti's central character undeniably infatuating, and complementing his lumbering pacing with a wealth of meticulously composed images. In fact, the way Antonioni makes such a fraught film of such an arid script makes L'eclisse his most impressive yet. Still, this same gift for sublime nuance is admittedly challenging, almost too challenging for its own good: masterfully crafted or not, the long sequences and barren plot test one's patience, particularly when the emphasis shifts away from Vitti's male encounters. The film's merits far eclipse these minor complaints, however. The opening sequence -- when a confused Vitti struggles to escape Francisco Rabal's obsessive character -- sets the precedent for the remainder of the film, with its unsure characters, desperate aura, and hovering ambience. The film's conclusion operates similarly, communicating its confusion lyrically, body language contradicting speech; it becomes even more striking when Antonioni employs a final haunting silence, ending the film with an epic, despair-laden montage sequence. Given its reduced narrative and obsessive emphasis on Vitti's enigmatic sense of sadness, L'eclisse's strength -- its ambiguity -- is also its most frustrating characteristic.
by Jason Birchmeier review