Michelangelo Antonioni’s wife, Enrica, made this privileged-view docu on the making of the old master’s latest film, “Beyond the Clouds,” and while the special access provides a close-up perspective on the rather unique circumstances surrounding its production, it remains a surface look lacking in any analysis or true insight. Nearly hourlong format makes this a good fit for Euro TV and Antonioni retros, but only viewers with a special interest in the director will remain glued to it.
That “Beyond the Clouds” was made at all represents something of a miracle, given that the octogenarian Antonioni hadn’t made a picture in more than a decade and had some years earlier suffered a debilitating stroke that left him essentially without speech. Otherwise physically and mentally capable, however, he summoned his strength to adapt some of his short stories into a script, recruited a first-class cast and shot it in Italy with backup from Wim Wenders, who helmed the wraparound connecting material.
Docu, which was shot on video and projected as such with Antonioni in attendance at AFI/L.A. fest, reveals a reverential deference on the part of all his collaborators and actors, the legendary director’s methods of communicating through glances and gestures, his unstinting perfectionism and his surprisingly youthful mischievousness and humor, among other things.
Also of interest is the constant presence of Wenders at every step of the way , often snapping photos and generally behaving like a loyal assistant. That there may have been a clash of egos between these two auteurs is briefly evident in one sequence, but Wenders quickly backs down, as it’s clear who the boss is on this production.
Otherwise, there is no display of the temperament that rumor had it was in full flourish at various stages of the shoot, and docu is content to display rather than analyze or comment. As such, it is a valuable document but not with anything penetrating to say.