Long Engagement

One of my favorite long takes — those scenes when the camera doesn’t look away — comes at the end of the 1996 film “Big Night.” In it, two brothers make and then eat an omelet. Because it comes at the end of a frenetic movie depicting a frenetic night, this extended moment of rest is almost unbearably tense.

Another of my favorite long takes is in Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Story of a Love Affair.” The camera pans 360 degrees in 3½ minutes. Compared to “Avatar,” no, it’s not technically impressive. But in 1950, it was a Chris Nolan-style move.

There are so many great directors working today that, unless you’re taking a film history course, it’s easy to convince yourself that modern filmmaking started with Tarantino. But you’ve got a chance this weekend to see Antonioni’s films for free, and you should take it. (The National Gallery of Art’s retrospective runs through Sept. 3.)

Disclaimer: Hitchcock hated Antonioni’s work. It’s not bubblegum fare. You could live the rest of your life happily without seeing any Antonioni. But you’ve got nothing to lose except an hour and a half, and you might find yourself unable to look away.

“Story of a Love Affair,” National Gallery of Art, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW; Sat., 2 p.m., free; 202-737-4215. (Archives)

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