Antonioni in the Amazon

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By AFRANIO CATANI*

André Ristum will film “Technically Sweet”, based on an unpublished script by the Italian filmmaker

I believe only Brian De Palma (1940) watched Blow-Up (1966) more times than I have. Jokes aside, Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007) is one of my favorite directors, having put on screen unforgettable and thought-provoking images throughout a vast career, which included great successes and no less failures.

In an article published last year on the website the earth is round [1] I wrote about his literary prose, commenting on the book The dangerous thread of things, [2] a collection of 33 stories, which Antonioni called “narrative cores”. Modestly, he defined himself not as a writer, but “a director who writes”. Joke: a voracious reader, citing, here and there, various classics and contemporaries, showing complete mastery of the technique of storytelling. Of the 33 mentioned in the book, 4 left the paper in beyond the clouds (1995), a film by Wim Wenders that the Italian did not fully approve of.

One of the stories that was unpublished in cinema was “Antarctica”, with only three lines: “The glaciers of Antarctica move three millimeters a year towards us. Calculate when they will arrive. Predict, in a film, what will happen” (p. 19). Well, another unpublished one, but which is not in the book, is “Technically Sweet” which, according to the wonderful article by Leonardo Sanchez, published in the newspaper Folha de S. Paul, [3] “should have been filmed between Zabriskie Point, by 1970, and Profession: Reporter, from 1975”. The action takes place, among other settings, in the Amazon – that is, the master from Ferrara goes from the ice to the tropical heat.

But what exactly is this script about? It is an Antonioni in its raw state: “An Italian journalist enters an existential crisis that takes him overseas, to Brazilian lands, where he embarks on an expedition through the Amazon. He gets involved with an enigmatic young woman and has an anthropology student as company – that's it, the love triangle is formed”. The action will take place in Rome, on the island of Sardinia and in the Amazon, and will be directed by filmmaker André Ristum, in a production by Gullane Entretenimento and the Italian company Similar Film.

Leonardo Sanchez clarifies that the rights were acquired from Michelangelo's widow, Enrica Antonioni, who in a note declared that “it was a pain for him to have to leave the production (…) I met him when he was preparing the film and accompanied him in his travels to Sardinia and in search of jungles around the world, until we reach the Amazon”. The text also adds that Antonioni thought about making locations on Brazilian soil and casting Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider for the main roles, but Carlo Ponti, the producer, ended up not financing the film.

I watched, by André Ristum, just the My country (2011). He was assistant director to Bernardo Bertolucci in stolen beauty (1996) and directed more than a dozen films, highlighting O Outro Lado do Paraíso (2014) and The Voice of Silence (2018), in addition to being a screenwriter for several others. However, what is most interesting, and little known, is that Jirges Ristum, André's father, was a friend of Antonioni, he was his assistant in The Oberwald Mystery (1980), also collaborated with Bertolucci and received authorization from the director of Blow-Up to film “Technically Sweet”, which would be his directorial debut. However, in 1984, cancer took him and almost buried the script for good.

André declared to Leonardo Sanchez that “this was a script that has always inhabited my imagination and now allows me to have a reconnection with my father”. We are all anxiously waiting for the reconnection with Antonioni to be established, with the start of filming scheduled for 2023. Hopefully!

*Afranio Catani, retired professor at USP, is a visiting professor at UFF and author, among others, of The Shadow of the Other: Cinematográfica Maristela and industrial cinema in São Paulo in the 50s.

Notes


[1] Afrânio Catani, “Antonioni: the dangerous thread of things”. In: The Earth is Round, 21. Available at https://aterraeredonda.com.br/antonioni-o-fio-perigoso-das-coisas/

[2] Michelangelo Antonioni. The Dangerous Thread of Things and Other Stories. Rio de Janeiro: New Frontier, 1991.

[3] Leonardo Sanchez. The new adventure. Folha de S. Paul, “Ilustrada”, 11, p. B03.

 

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