Style in Film: L’Avventura

Lea Massari's costumes L'Avventura 
In 1960, Michelangelo Antonioni’s film L’Avventura won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival “for a new movie language and the beauty of its images.” I loved the film the first time I saw it, a few years ago, and I loved it even more now. Visually speaking (cinematography by Aldo Scavarda), it’s a hauntingly beautiful film. Not one frame is purposeless, each tells a part of the story. And as a whole, I find the film groundbreaking, stark and pure, advancing the language of cinema. With no clear ending and an on-going theme of reflection, this is one of the kinds of movies that has the most lasting impression on me.

A group of wealthy friends, including Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), his girlfriend, Anna (Lea Massari) and her friend, Claudia (Monica Vitti), are cruising the sea near the Aeolian Islands in the South of Italy on a yacht. They anchor near an island and go ashore. Anna disappears and she can not be found, and this is one of the questions that gets no answer in the end. Just like the meaning of life for the Roman high society portrayed by the characters – it seems that it’s merely a fruitless search for pleasure. Few directors have done a better job at depicting loneliness and the fleeting existence on screen.
L'Avventura costumes

Anna’s little white dress is perfect for summer – I like the two ties detail at the waist – and when I saw it I immediately thought of one of the dresses in the Altuzarra Fall/Winter 2014 collection.

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Monica Vitti's costumes L'Avventura-1Monica Vitti's costumes L'Avventura

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The costumes were designed by Adriana Berselli. They evoke a modern European feel, an Italian understated glamour, but, most of all, they blend with the scenery as a key element to understanding the characters and their purposeless lives. Claudia seems to be the only one who doesn’t exactly fit into the aristocracy, but mingles with them nonetheless – her costumes reflect exactly her problematical belonging to a certain social class.  Along with La Dolce VitaL’Avventura introduced the world to a new Italian style and fashion after the post-war realism.

With a reserved sensuality, icy cool gaze and mysterious presence, Monica Vitti is one of the classy beauties of the Italian and of the world cinema. She carved her niche in comedy, being named by film critic Callisto Cosulich “the fifth musketeer” of Italian comedy, putting her next to Gassman, Manfredi, Sordi and Tognazzi. She met international fame when she starred in L’Avventura. She gives a beautiful performance in the film and has a great chemistry with Gabriele Ferzetti. Vitti would become Antonioni’s life partner and would appear in three more of his films, L’Eclisse, La notte and Il deserto rosso.
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A deep V back swimsuit. She wears a button-down striped shirt as a cover-up.

Monica Vitti in L'Avventura-1

Lea Massari's costumes L'Avventura

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The other summer dress Lea Massari is wearing is beautiful, too. I like the herringbone pattern on a light dress.

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The striped shirt dress makes an appearance, too. Monica sports one with large patch pockets, later accessorized with a matching belt and ballet flats. But the most important aspect is that it is another piece that blends in chromatically and thematically with the landscape. Just as the shirt she is wearing below, which in fact belongs to Anna, who had given it to Claudia. It was Antonioni himself who chose this particular shirt. It was originally a shirt dress purchased by the costume designer and the director liked it because of the ethnic print of the fabric, its brown and copper colour combination, which he thought would work well with the film’s chromatic as a whole, but in particular for the sequence following Anna’s disappearance. It was then decided to cut the dress and transform it into a shirt. From the moment Claudia puts the shirt on, she becomes the new partner of Anna’s lover, Sandro.
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 As for the whimsical frame below, it just shows the cinematic eye of the director. The stripes and play of prints could have been the inspiration behind many designer collections.

Style in film-L'Avventura 1960

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Style in film Monica Vitti in L'Avventura

Straight-cut, knee-length skirt, relaxed-fit sweater, two-toned pumps and classic handbag – a look that has no age.

Styl in film-Monica Vitti in L'Avventura

Above: one more example of the striking cinematography.

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The polka dot suit below was apparently the only outfit not completely agreed by the costume designer, who thought that the suit, chosen by Monica Vitti herself, conveyed a different and more bougeois perception of Claudia’s character. But the costume works perfectly against the background.

From perfectly tailored suits, button-down shirts, straight-cut skirts and plain sweaters, to beautiful dresses, bold prints and the finest Italian footwear, Monica Vitti’s wardrobe in L’Avventura is impeccable. Classic and modern through and through. But it’s the language of clothes that I always find the most fascinating about the costumes in the movies of the great film-makers. There is one scene in L’Avventura, which I didn’t capture, in which Claudia is wearing a funny robe, housewifely-looking compared to her other outfits. She is with Sandro and they can hear a popular song in the background, “You Will Never Leave Me”. In this sequence Monica Vitti almost mocks all the drama, as Eugenia Paulicelli says in her book, The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, and Globalization: Fashion, Identity, Globalization, a light playfulness that could not have been achieved cinematically without the house robe. She also says that Adriana Berselli told her that Monica Vitti was the one who chose the more playful one of two items, because she was dying to do a comical piece in the film. This just shows, once again, the actress’s real talent for comedy.
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photos: screen stills captured by me from this DVD edition, except for the first one, via Pinterest
bibliography: The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, and Globalization: Fashion, Identity, Globalization, by Eugenia Paulicelli

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