For many the virtual definition of "intellectual arthouse", L'Avventura is the seminal Antonioni classic that brought a torrent of jeers and boos at Cannes in 1960, for its length, slow pacing, sense of alienation and disdain for conventional plot. "A Nightmarish masterpiece of tedium" Time called it.
The main apparent storyline, and potentially fascinating mystery- of a woman who goes missing from a small island off the coast of Sicily while on a small group's yachting trip- is left to drift off, while a tentative and hardly joyous relationship develops between her fiancé and best friend who travel together in search of her.
My verdict on 3rd viewing; far from boring, cold, pretentious, self-indulgent, hollow nihilism, L'Avventura is a mesmerising milestone that deserves to regain a place at the very forefront of film achievement. Aldo Scavarda's cinematography is serenely beautiful and quite outstanding, Eraldo da Roma's editing (though many complain the film should have been clipped) nigh on flawless, and the use of buildings and environment to suggest a range of complex, enigmatic feelings is masterful. Throw in a wonderful sensual elegance, enhanced of course by Monica Vitti, and even a deep, lingering sense of mystery- this despite the neglect of the original puzzle.
It's wholly cinematic yet feels like a great novel. At 2 hours 25 minutes i wanted it to go on and on. A film of immense nobility from a period of seismic international change, excitement and vitality (Les 400 Coups, Hiroshima mon Amour, Breathless, La Dolce Vita, Last Year at Marienbad, 8 1/2...) it towers over the mass of today's flashy, shallow, juvenile, derivative and overrated efforts like a colossus.