Videovista have my review of Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Signora Senza Camelie:
However, look beyond such technical considerations and you will find not only a fascinating glimpse into the state of female emancipation in 1950s’ Italy but also an absolutely vicious indictment of the Italian studio system at the time.
Looking back at the review (I actually wrote it for the April issue of Videovista), I think I was a trifle harsh in giving the film only 7 out of 10 but my rather subdued marking does reflect a problem I have with Antonioni.
One of the accusations leveledat the postmodern novel by more traditionally-minded readers is that these works are nothing more than ‘clever tricks for grad students’. What this means is that the people who write postmodern novels imbue the work with so much front-loaded theoretical complexity that their novels can only ever be appreciated by people who share their understanding of postmodern theory. While I would never argue that Antonioni made films with film students in mind, I do think that his worth has been inflated by people who have studied his work in an academic setting.
As with L’Avventura (1960), I can watch La Donna Senza Camelie and marvel at its technical sophistication, its intellectual politics and the ways in which it moves the medium of film onwards and upwards. I understand both why and how he made the film, I understand how he was trying to attack the mythical status of Cinecitta. I can understand and appreciate all of these things about the film and still it bores me. La Donna Senza Camelie imparts information but it does not speak to me.