Cast & Crew
After 10 years, the marriage of Lidia and Giovanni has become empty and meaningless; their only bond is mutual lethargy. Late one afternoon they visit a dying friend, Tommaso, in a Milan hospital. Distressed by the thought of death, Lidia leaves his bedside and weeps in anguish. When Giovanni rejoins her, he confesses that he allowed himself to be seduced by a nymphomaniacal patient in the hospital. Lidia, however, remains unmoved by the confession. They then attend a cocktail party celebrating the publication of Giovanni's latest book. Bored with the pseudo-sophisticated guests, Lidia steals away and wanders through the city, observing with fascination and revulsion the life around her. At dusk she telephones Giovanni from a park and asks him to pick her up. Back home, she tries but fails to reawaken Giovanni's sexual desires, and then she suggests they go to a nightclub. After watching an erotic dance, they attend a party given by a millionaire who wants Giovanni to become his director of literary publicity. While at the party, Lidia calls the hospital and learns that Tommaso has died. As she watches Giovanni unashamedly pursuing Valentina Gerardini, the millionaire's daughter, Lidia's despair drives her to flirt with a young playboy; but she is soon bored and returns to her husband, whose pursuit of Valentina proved fruitless. At dawn they leave the party, and Lidia reads Giovanni a love letter he wrote years before. He fails to recognize it and is suddenly forced to face the shallowness of his life. He tries to rekindle their love by making advances to Lidia; at first she resists, but gradually she yields.
Maria Pia Luzi
Guido Aimone Marsan
Eraldo Da Roma
Gianni Di Venanzo
Giorgio Gaslini And His Quartette
La Notte - LA NOTTE
La Notte (1960) is the second part of Antonioni's trilogy of alienation that fits between L'Avventura and L'Eclisse (1962). It is the journey of a single night in the relationship of a novelist (Marcello Mastroianni) and his wife (Jeanne Moreau) as they confront, but do not resolve, the crisis in their marriage. Set in Milan, Italy's most modern and industrial city, the film examines themes of failed communication and the sterility of modern life. By this time, Antonioni was less concerned with plot and story development in his films, and more with his characters' reactions. As a result, the imagery in La Notte often takes on a symbolic quality, with sterile cityscapes, reflections, characters separated by glass, and stark, almost architectural compositions. All of these are used to express the characters' isolation and disaffected ennui. In one memorable scene, Moreau and another character are shot entirely from outside a car, and we see them through the car window talking, but cannot hear their conversation.
Critics then and now were divided on the effectiveness of the performances. Martin Rubin observed that "Antonioni's is not basically an actor's cinema - his actors being reduced, to a great degree, to elements in a landscape and a formal plan....Moreau and Mastroianni, two high-powered international stars...seem visibly constrained by their roles in La Notte." Others praised them. Parker Tyler wrote, "Jeanne Moreau acts the part with extraordinary feeling and authority. The sweet life turned acrid is written all over her face." Mastroianni and Moreau are primarily film actors, and when the camera is fixed on their faces, their expressions are more eloquent than ordinary dialogue.
On the other hand, Monica Vitti, playing the third point of the marital triangle, was becoming the ideal Antonioni actress. In La Notte, as in L'Avventura, and later in L'Eclisse and Il Deserto Rosso (1964), Vitti allowed herself to be used as a blank canvas on which Antonioni could paint his bleak images, a "luminous cipher perfectly suited to her director's austere formalism," as one critic called her. It was not until she stopped working with Antonioni, however, that she was able to show her range, which includes a flair for comedy.
Antonioni's work would become even more elliptical and distanced from conventional narrative in subsequent films. Detractors say his films are too cerebral, too personal, too obscure, too aloof. But Antonioni himself says he's compelled to make the films he does: "some people believe I make films with my head; a few others think they come from the heart; for my part, I feel as though I make them with my stomach."
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Producer: Emanuele Cassuto
Screenplay: Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, Ennio Flaiano, based on a story by Antonioni
Editor: Eraldo Da Roma
Cinematography: Gianni Di Venanzo
Set Designer: Piero Zuffi
Music: Giorgio Gaslini
Principal Cast: Marcello Mastroianni (Giovanni Pontano), Jeanne Moreau (Lidia), Monica Vitti (Valentina Gherardini), Bernhard Wicki (Tommaso), Maria Pia Luzi (Patient), Rosy Mazzacurati (Resy).
by Margarita Landazuri
La Notte - LA NOTTE
La Notte on Criterion Blu-ray
1961's La Notte is perhaps the most accessible film of the four, as it does not abandon its conventional story about a marriage in crisis. Retaining a realistic surface, Antonioni observes his disaffected husband and wife through their subdued, muted behaviors. Their feeling of emotional deadness is never difficult to understand. Architectural context is everything for this director. The modern city's cold surfaces seem to negate the human dimension, as if making honest relationships impossible.
The first thing we see is a shot of a glass tower blocking our view of an older, traditional building. Popular novelist Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Mastroianni) and his wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) visit a hospital where their dear friend Tommaso Garani (Berhnard Wicki) is dying. Warm feelings are expressed, but Giovanni keeps his emotions in check. Giovanni will later be surprised to learn that Tommaso, an important mentor and inspiration for his writing, has always been in love with Lidia. Lidia leaves to wait outside, and Giovanni is almost seduced by a disturbed young woman from a room down the hall. Later, at a reception to celebrate Giovanni's new book, Lidia feels redundant. She excuses herself and spends the afternoon in a taxi, driving around the city to places where she once lived. She finally calls Giovanni from a neighborhood where some young men are firing off small rockets. Although Giovanni pouts and Lidia remains aloof, they end up attending an all-night party at the palatial home of the industrialist Gherardini (Vincenzo Corbella), where they are treated as extra-special guests. While the revelers dance to a live jazz band in the vast garden, the Pontanos go their separate ways. Each resents seeing the other behave in a lively and animated manner around other people. Lidia begins to flirt with a globe-hopping playboy, Roberto (Giorgio Negro), while Giovanni becomes fascinated with Gherardi's twenty-something daughter Valentina (Monica Vitti), who he finds reading his new book.
La Notte is a study of modern Italian sophisticates that aren't coping well with their affluent, selfish lifestyles. The slightly jaded, self-obsessed Giovanni is so caught up in complacent comfort that his handsome face seems drained of real emotion. The neglected Lidia feels as if she has been cheated in life: at one point she was also involved in creative pursuits, and now lives in Giovanni's shadow. Women flock to the author like a magnet, leaving Lidia feeling like an accessory to an unappreciative husband. At one point she reads a passionate love note to Giovanni, who asks who wrote it. Lidia doesn't even express anger when she tells him that he wrote it to her, back when their relationship meant something.
Lidia's wandering on the outskirts of Milan can't bring the past back to life. In her expensive clothes she's offered assistance; a bored taxi-driver patiently waits for her, presumably satisfied by the charge being rung up on the meter. The model rockets are an interesting diversion, and perhaps a symbol of the future Lidia might have had, if she had stayed single and pursued her own interests.
Lidia and Giovanni glide into the fancy house party looking like a fabulous success story; they blend right into the crowd of privileged Italians celebrating their own wealth. The host regales Giovanni with talk about his vast business empire; he wants the writer to head up his company's new corporate culture and morale division. Signora Gherardini (Gitt Magrini) is the definition of the gracious society hostess, all clever talk and smooth introductions. Lidia is politely unimpressed. Giovanni is soon following the attractive Valentina around the glass walls of her father's designer mansion. They play a shuffleboard- like game on the checkered floor of the playroom, which becomes an impromptu arena and betting parlor for the party guests. Lidia allows the on-the-make Roberto to take her for a spin in his new sports car. Giovanni behaves as if he were free to toss his life away and run off with the first interesting woman he sees, something that Valentina is wisely aware of. Lidia realizes that she's incapable of making a casual conquest, no matter how unfulfilled she feels. As the dawn approaches, the Pontanos find themselves together again. Have they learned anything?
What makes Michelangelo such an admired filmmaker? La Notte is an uncomplicated narrative about complicated people, packed with insights not expressed in dialogue. Busy street scenes and two large parties contrast with Lidia's lonely wanderings on the fringe of the city, and in every scene we feel as if we have taken a time machine back to Milan of 1961. Antonioni carefully stages and lights everything, but his camera technique rarely draws attention to itself. Images in the millionaire's house frequently involve reflections in the glass walls that make people look like ghost figures, or duplicates of themselves. It's a house for vain, ostentatious creatures. The shots can be disorienting, but angles are never chosen simply for pictorial effect. We feel as if we're inside a cinematic equation that relates interpersonal relationships with architectural forms. The architectural abstraction is not an end in itself, but instead connects the viewer with Antonioni's feelings about the quality of life. When Lidia and Giovanni walk together on Gherardini's vast garden lawn, the feeling that their marriage might be healed is not an intellectual deduction.
This is one picture in which the handsome Marcello Mastroianni convinces as a shallow intellectual. Giovanni takes Lidia utterly for granted. He needs to find his way back to the basic realities of his life, to remember which people and commitments really matter. The fact that Jeanne Moreau is dubbed in Italian is never an issue. The actress's seemingly neutral stares express a range of emotion, from complete despair to muted optimism. Her Lidia has simply been burned far too often. Monica Vitti would soon become Antonioni's leading player; here her character is quite a charmer. Valentina sees nothing wrong with flirting with Giovanni, but makes no promises and surrenders no emotional ground. In a telling moment, she reports to her mother that the famous married author is getting rather serious. Mother and daughter assess the situation as if similar intrigues are common occurrences, and best resolved without undue dramatics.
German actor Bernhard Wicki was also a prolific film director. His character Tommaso begins the film with a burst of honest emotion that affects everything that follows. La Notte is perhaps the Antonioni that casual viewers should see first, as it is least likely to frustrate (or annoy) those unacquainted with unconventionally structured movies. It creates strong feelings about its characters, a quality that seems of less importance to the director in some of his more abstract, complex films.
Criterion's Blu-ray of La Notte is a marvelous encoding of Michelangelo Antonioni's B&W masterpiece, conveying the many textures in the cinematography of Gianni Di Venanzo (Salvatore Giuliano, Juliet of the Spirits). When Lidia rides in the playboy's sports car, a downpour sends curtains of water pouring down the windows - the minimalist visuals instantly give them isolation and privacy. The widescreen aspect ratio enables Antonioni to feature his characters in relationship to architecture old and new, maintaining a sense of human scale. We come to know that lavish party house inside and out.
The extras are lightly illustrated video lectures. Critic Adriano Aprà and historian Carlo di Carlo investigate all aspects of the film, while professor Giuliana Bruno gives us insights on Antonioni's cinematic use of architecture. Richard Brody's insert booklet essay condenses the film's unique qualities into a few informative pages. In a brief but insightful article, director Antonioni explains that the show was inspired by parties he attended. He began planning La Notte before L'Avventura, but needed extra time to work out various story problems.
By Glenn Erickson
La Notte on Criterion Blu-ray
"When I awake this morning, you were still asleep. As I awoke I heard you gentle breathing. I saw you closed eyes beneath wisps of stray hair and I was deeply moved. I wanted to cry out, to wake you, but you slept so deeply, so soundly. " "In the half light you skin gloved with life so warm and sweet. I wanted to kiss it, but I was afraid to wake you. I was afraid of you awake in my arms again. Instead, I wanted to something no one could take from me, mine alone...this eternal image of you. Beyond your face I saw a pure, beautiful vision showing us in the perspective of my whole life...all the year to come, even all the years past."- Lidia
Who wrote that?- Giovanni
You did.- Lidia
Filmed on location in Milan. Released in Italy in February 1961; in France as La nuit in February 1961. Also known as The Night.
Winner of the Best Film Prize at the 1961 Berlin Film Festival.
Released in United States 1961
Released in United States 1994
Released in United States January 24, 1961
Shown at MOMA (Jeanne Moreau: Nouvelle Vague and Beyond) in New York City February 18 - March 25, 1994.
Shown at the 1961 Berlin Film Festival
Began shooting July 1960.
Completed shooting August 1960.
Released in United States 1994 (Shown at MOMA (Jeanne Moreau: Nouvelle Vague and Beyond) in New York City February 18 - March 25, 1994.)
Released in United States 1961 (Shown at the 1961 Berlin Film Festival)
Released in United States January 24, 1961 (Premiered in Milan January 24, 1961.)
Released in United States 1961