Tag Archives: Peter Wollen


Whether one was auditing Peter Wollen’s classes at UCLA, reading his essays, or watching the films he wrote and/or directed, one was always persuaded by what Tilda Swinton calls his “dazzling prophetic genius.”

Wollen—director of Friendship’s Death and co-director with Laura Mulvey of Riddles of the Sphinx and Crystal Gazing—was born in London in 1938 and died earlier this month in England. He is survived by his wife, the writer and artist Leslie Dick.

He co-wrote Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger, authored several books—including Signs and Meaning in the Cinema and Paris Manhattan: Writings on Art—and was professor emeritus of film, television and digital media in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

From top: Peter Wollen, photograph by Karen Knorr; Wollen, Paris Manhattan: Writings on Art; Wollen, Paris Hollywood: Writings on Film; Michelangelo Antonioni, The Passenger (1975); Laura Mulvey and Wollen, Riddles of the Sphinx (1977); Wollen, Friendship’s Death (1987), with Tilda Swinton and Bill Paterson; Wollen, photograph by Leslie Dick. Images courtesy and © the filmmakers, the author, the photographers, and Verso books.


“I feel the need to express reality, but in terms which are not completely realist.” — Michelangelo Antonioni to Jean-Luc Godard, Cahiers du cinéma, November 1964.

Over the next two weeks at the Egyptian, the American Cinematheque will present Modernist Master—Michelangelo Antonioni, an extensive retrospective of the work of the Italian writer-director showcasing his key dramatic features, as well as a selection of shorts from throughout his career.

“Your work has proceeded, from moment to moment, in a movement of double vigilance, towards the contemporary world and towards yourself… You have lived through and treated the history of the last thirty years with subtlety, not as the matter of an artistic reflection or an ideological mission, but as a substance whose magnetism it was your task to capture from work to work.” — Roland Barthes, “Dear Antonioni,” 1980*

The series will open with BLOW-UP (1966), Antonioni’s celebrated look at Swinging London through the eyes of a fashion photographer—played by David Hemmings and largely based on David Bailey. The film co-stars Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, Verushka, Jane Birkin, and The Yardbirds.

“For you, content and form are equally historical… Strictly speaking, the artist—unlike the thinker—does not evolve; he scans, like a very sensitive instrument, the successive novelty with which his own history presents him… The artist, for his part, knows that the meaning of a thing is not its truth… Your work is not a fixed reflection, but an iridescent surface.” — Barthes, “Dear Antonioni”

The Monica Vitti tetralogy from the early sixties is here—L’AVVENTURA (1960), LA NOTTE (1961), L’ECLISSE (1962), and RED DESERT (1964)—and the closing-weekend double feature pairs THE PASSENGER—written by Peter Wollen, Mark Peploe, and Antonioni—and ZABRISKIE POINT, shot in Los Angeles and Death Valley.

“Your art consists in always leaving the road of meaning open and as if undecided—out of scrupulousness. In this respect you accomplish very precisely the task of the artist as our time requires it: neither dogmatic, nor empty of signification.” — Barthes, “Dear Antonioni”

The series—co-presented by Luce Cinecittà—also takes a deep dive into Antonioni’s early work—STORY OF A LOVE AFFAIR (1950), I VINTI (1952, his three-part look at juvenile delinquency), LE AMICHE (1955), and IL GRIDO (1957), starring Stephen Cochran as Antonioni’s only working-class male protagonist.

A rare screening of the documentary CHUNG KUO—CHINA will close the retrospective.



Thursday, September 13, at 7:30 pm.


L’AVVENTURA, Friday, September 14, at 7:30 pm.



Saturday, September 15, at 7:30 pm.


L’ECLISSE, Sunday, September 16, at 7:30 pm.



Thursday, September 20, at 7:30 pm.



Friday, September 21, at 7:30 pm.



Saturday, September 22, at 7:30 pm.


CHUNG KUO—CHINA, Sunday, September 23, at 7:30.


Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles.

*“Cher Antonioni” is a commemorative speech given by Roland Barthes in 1980 in Bologna. It was subsequently published in Cahiers du cinéma 311 (May 1980), and translated into English by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith for his book L’Avventura.

From top: Vanessa Redgrave and David Hemmings in Blow-Up.

Stephen Cochran and Dorian Gray in Il Grido.

Monica Vitti and Michelangelo Antonioni at the Paris premiere of L’Avventura in 1960.

Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider in The Passenger.

Antonioni with Alain Delon (center) and Vitti on the set of L’Eclisse.