Movie of the Week #20

Sette Canne, un vestito
(Seven Reeds, One Suit)
(Michelangelo Antonioni; 1949)

The industrialization of Northern Italy after the Second World War, and all its hideous consequences, was only one of the subtexts that informed, to one degree or another, a huge amount of Post-war Italian Cinema (not just the Neorealist cycle). In one of his early documentaries, Sette Canne, un vestito, Michelangelo Antonioni took his camera to a Rayon factory near Trieste and, through his determined emphasis on soulless machinery (almost to the exclusion of the workers) created the first of his oppressive environments without sacrificing the essential documentary character of the enterprise. Almost a decade later, Alain Resnais and Raymond Queneau would take this a step (or two) further with their plastic molding epic, Le Chant du Styrène, but Antonioni's film, even with the sumptuousness of its imagery, remains the more everlasting triumph in this small corner of the documentary canon.

Note: This film is presented in the original Italian, without English subtitles. Call it a poor guess or call it a shifty evasion, but it's my . . . belief . . . that the narration probably offers us little that the images can't handle on their own.

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