A day in the life of an unfaithful married couple and their steadily deteriorating relationship.A day in the life of an unfaithful married couple and their steadily deteriorating relationship.A day in the life of an unfaithful married couple and their steadily deteriorating relationship.
As the film opens, one morning in Milano, married couple Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni) and Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) visit their friend Tomasso (Bernhard Wicki) in the hospital as he lays dying. Lidia is clearly shaken by the experience and, after Giovanni leaves for an appearance to promote his new book, the camera tracks Lidia through a long, aimless walk around Milano as she processes her thoughts. Here Antonioni (anticipating his later film Il Deserto Rosso) shows the drastically changing face of Milano in the postwar construction boom, and the appearance of new tech gadgetry in everyday life, as just one more way people can feel they have nothing certain they can hold on to in this world.
Giovanni and Lidia, while never outright squabbling, have clearly grown cold towards each other. Gradually one begins to wonder if there is any life left in their marriage whatsoever. Things come to a head, however, when Giovanni and Lidia go that evening to a party at a rich industrialist's villa, and Antonioni's favourite actress Monica Vitti appears. Vitti's role as a foil to Giovanni and Lidia is powerful and moving, but I think its precise nature should be left unsaid here, as it's better audiences aren't spoiled first.
A mere description of the plot might seem like nothing happens in this film besides bored people talking and yet another mid-century European cinematic tale of adultery. But LA NOTTE is a film of incredible visual poetry, almost like the work of Andrei Tarkovsky. Even scenes that evoke the characters' boredom are shot as such beautiful tableaux that the viewer is enraptured. Antonioni often shoots his characters reflected in mirrors and the like, and there is some cinematic legerdemain here that just makes you go "wow".
Appearing in Antonioni's body of work between two similar films that are often considered a trilogy, LA NOTTE has often got less buzz than its predecessor L'AVVENTURA, with its daring plot twist, or its successor L'ECLISSE with its chic Monica Vitti-Alain Delon love affair. But I think that in terms of the picture-perfect visuals and elegant pacing, LA NOTTE deserves every bit as much praise as those other two classic films.
- May 13, 2017