As a critic who spends the majority of his time looking at present and future releases, I occasionally worry that I'm losing the faculties to appreciate the kinds of films that made me want to write about them in the first place. I mean, Jaws, Star Wars and Back to the Future are all undisputed classics, but the real reason I devoted what is now the majority of my adult life to examining the art of cinema is because I was invigorated, inspired, and even transformed by the works of directors like Kurosawa and Bertolucci, Cassavetes and Godard. Not only were these filmmakers developing the rules that would come to define the conventions of modern cinema, but they were breaking them at the same time, creating works that transcended simple storytelling and became vital, lasting commentaries on important ideas and issues.
Michelangelo Antonioni is a filmmaker whom I studied with some passion in college, even crafting a term paper on post-neorealist Italian filmmakers that included him alongside fellow luminaries Pier Paolo Pasolini and Bernardo Bertolucci. Sadly, however, I haven't spent a lot of time since then immersing myself in his work, which is why I leapt at the chance to check out Criterion's new Blu-ray for Red Desert. And while I wasn't especially worried that it would be any less of a masterpiece some 46 years after its initial release, I elected it as this week's "Shelf Life" subject to see whether the sharpness of his vision still resonated with an ADD-addled, blockbuster-drunk mentality like mine.