Granted, I came to this movie from a radically different angle from the crowd who first saw and booed it at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960, but in retrospect, it takes some effort to understand their confusion and upset. Yes, L’Avventura isn’t The Bourne Ultimatum, pacing and plotting are leisurely and oblique, but the film isn’t anywhere near as forbidding as contemporary audiences seemed to think or Camille Paglia recently suggested.

Far from being non-narrative or dull, L’Avventura is loaded with tension. The black and white cinematography is gorgeous and deliberate, and even on the surface, the mystery of Anna (Lea Massari), who disappears on a cruise to a volcanic island, is intriguing. The questionable relationship that develops between Anna’s caddish fiancé Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) and her best friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) is ripe with complex undercurrents of desire, guilt, and despair. And if that’s not enough, you can ponder Antonioni’s masterful play with audience expectations, moral judgments, and narrative/cinematic conventions. If Paglia remembers L’Avventura as “plotless,” what does she make of Apichatpong Weerasethakul or Inland Empire?

L’avventura. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960. *****