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MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI: 1912-2007 // MODERN CINEMA'S MAESTRO OF SUBTLE

Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, whose depiction of alienation made him a symbol of art-house cinema with movies such as Blow-Up and L'Avventura, died at his home Monday evening. He was 94.

"With Antonioni dies not only one of the greatest directors but also a master of modernity," Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said in a statement.

Mr. Antonioni depicted alienation in the modern world through sparse dialogue and long takes. Along with Federico Fellini, he helped turn post-war Italian film away from the neorealism movement and toward a personal cinema of imagination.

In 1995, Hollywood honored his career work - about 25 films and several screenplays - with a special Oscar for lifetime achievement. By then Mr. Antonioni was a physically frail but mentally sharp 82, unable to speak but a few words because of a stroke but still translating his vision into film.

His slow-moving camera never became synonymous with box-office success, but some of his movies such as Blow-Up, Red Desert and The Passenger reached enduring fame.

L'Avventura was a critical success when it was presented at Cannes in 1960, but it frustrated many viewers for its lack of action and dialogue. At one point, the camera lingers and lingers on Monica Vitti, one of Mr. Antonioni's favorite actors, as she plays a restless jet-setter.

"In the empty, silent spaces of the world, he has found ... a strange and terrible beauty: austere, elegant, enigmatic, haunting," Jack Nicholson said in presenting Mr. Antonioni with the career Oscar. Nicholson starred in the director's 1975 film The Passenger.

Mr. Antonioni's first feature film, Story of a Love Affair (1950), was a tale of two lovers unable to cope with the ties binding them to their private lives.

But Mr. Antonioni grew more interested in depicting internal turmoil rather than daily, down-to-earth troubles.

His first success at the box office was Blow Up (1966), about London in the swinging '60s and a photographer who accidentally captures a murder on film.

But Mr. Antonioni had trouble getting Italian producers to back him. American backing helped produce Zabriskie Point (1970).

In 1994, ailing and hampered by the effects of the stroke, he made Beyond the Clouds, starring John Malkovich and Jeremy Irons.

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