The second in Antonioni’s “Alienation” trilogy that began with L’Avventura and ended with L’Eclisse. If you liked L’Avventura, you’ll probably dig this one too. I don’t think it’s as good as its predecessor, but it’s stamped with the same aesthetic qualities that make Antonioni’s work so irresistible: In his movies, physical space itself has profound psychological effects on the viewer. There is much emptiness and desolation in Antonioni’s movies (at least the ones I’ve seen so far) and this translates into the feeling of despair, a poignant sort of hopelessness that we feel for each of his characters. La Notte demonstrates the filmmaker’s obsession with the theme of cultural and personal disconnection against the backdrop of an Italy whose traditional Catholic values seem to be colliding with post-War hedonism and capitalism.
Here, Giovanni, a novelist played by the phenomenal Mastroianni, goes about a day of book parties and philandering, bored and totally lost in his life, as Lidia, his wife (Moreau), morose and disaffected, questions her own dedication to her life and marriage. The couple drifts apart in the course of the day, have fleeting conversations wherein the husband and wife try in vain for some flicker of meaning in their relationship. Finally, Mastroianni tries to seduce a woman (Monica Vitti) at this swank all-night party, a seduction that leads him to ponder the true depth of his love for his wife. Stylistically, La Notte intrigues but, in the realm of ideas, I think the movie begins to plod and drag halfway through. Is it pretentious and self-important? Self-important maybe in that ’60s European art cinema way. But I hesitate to call it pretentious because Antonioni and his contemporaries had so much passion for the cinematic medium and wanted so much to find genuine yet inventive means of expressing themselves through it. I’d say that Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and La Notte make a good double bill–both deal with similar themes, exploring an Italian society in material, moral and political transition.
Directed by: Michelangelo Antonioni
Written by: Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, Ennio Flaiano
Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti, Bernhard Wicki