Adventures in Editing I

By Paul Duncan

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For the past three years I have been researching, editing and laying out film books on film directors and film subjects for TASCHEN. Benedikt Taschen thought it would be a good idea for me to share some of my experiences with you.

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The first time I went to Italy was to meet Michelangelo Antonioni. It was July 2003. After a 4-hour flight from Birmingham, England, to Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci airport, and then a hair-raising taxi ride to my hotel (well, it would have been hair-raising if I had any hair), I spent 30 minutes in front of the air conditioning unit in my room. It was hot. So hot, in fact, that I felt myself getting lighter with each step.

I had picked a basic hotel that was near Michelangelo Antonioni's apartment. As soon as I arrived, I knew why it was cheap - it was nowhere near anything old. When you see pictures of Rome you see the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, etc. I could have been in any business quarter in the world, surrounded by slabs of concrete and slithers of glass. Crushed, I hopped into a taxi, crossed myself (becoming religious is necessary in Roman taxis) and spent a wonderful five minutes watching cars avoid each other in the evening rush hour, like a thousand fireflies jockeying for position in the night sky.

Michelangelo Antonioni is one of the two greatest living film directors of his generation (Ingmar Bergman being the other), and he was most gracious in allowing me to visit his photo archive, now stored in his home town of Ferrara, to select photos for a volume in the Film Directors series. Despite a stroke that severely limits his speech, Michelangelo still directs, communicating with the aid of his charming wife and collaborator Enrica. There is very little I could say to him or him to me, but all we needed to say was done through our eyes. Michelangelo's eyes twinkle with intelligence and humour, attributes which augment his enormous strength of will.

I made arrangements to visit the Antonioni archive in Ferrara beginning 15 December. I was accompanied by Andrea Boni, a producer/director who acts as Antonioni's personal assistant during filming. Andrea was my interpreter and liaison with the Museo Michelangelo Antonioni, which is headed by Andrea Buzzoni. Initially, I was told that there were about 10-14,000 photos in the archive so I allocated 4 days of research, but it soon became apparent that there were actually more than 22,000 photos.
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On the set of 'Beyond the Clouds' (1995). Michelangelo Antonioni fools around with Wim Wenders. (c) Donata Wenders