review for Red Desert on AllMovie

Red Desert (1964)
by Lucia Bozzola review

In his first color film, Michelangelo Antonioni expressively visualized the inner turmoil of a well-heeled wife as she tries to put her life together after a nervous breakdown. Beginning with the title sequence of an out-of-focus factory, Antonioni creates a near-abstract vision of modernity, replete with power stations, radar towers, merchant ships, and stark domestic interiors, drained of natural colors. Monica Vitti's Giuliana inhabits a world of smokestacks belching yellow poison, rotted brown industrial locations occasionally punctuated by brightly painted machinery, and thick gray ocean fogs that contrast sharply with the pristine blue sea and pink sands of her imagined fairy tale. Cinematographer Carlo Di Palma's shallow depth of field repeatedly folds Giuliana into the desolate, blurry landscape, yet it emphasizes her alienation by setting her off in sharp focus; she cannot comfortably exist in a world that engulfs her. The dissonant electronic score and soundtrack of noisy machinery enhances the representation of Giuliana's unease. Red Desert's extraordinary deployment of color inspired Federico Fellini, among others, to add color to his experiments with film form, while the legacy of Antonioni's study of environmental female dislocation can be felt most notably in Todd Haynes's Safe (1995), often considered one of the best American movies of the 1990s.