Friday, December 06, 2013

La Notte




Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and written by Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, and Ennio Flaiano, La Notte (The Night) is the story about the day in the life of a married couple whose marriage is disintegrating as they spend the night confronting the state of their marriage. The second part of Antonioni’s alienation trilogy that was preceded by L’Avventura and later followed by L’Eclisse. The film is an exploration into marriage and how people fall out of love in the course of one night. Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti, and Bernhard Wicki. La Notte is an entrancing yet eerie film from Michelangelo Antonioni.

Told in the span of 24 hours, the film explores the life of a married couple where their marriage is in a state of disintegration where they later attend a party one night as it becomes clear how far apart they’ve become. It is a film that plays into the idea of a couple falling out of love but it is set in modern Italy in the city of Milan where things are changing radically. Not just in the way where the places that Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni) and Lidia Pontano (Jeanne Moreau) once used to frequent are disappearing but also other things in their life emotionally and socially. Giovanni is a renowned author who feels like he has reached the peak of his career as people ask him endless questions about how to be a great writer. Lidia is a woman who is just frustrated by the state of her marriage as she is unsure of where she is at in her life. All of which plays into this party where Giovanni and Lidia each frequent into their own adventures while dealing with their sense of alienation in themselves and in each other.

The film’s screenplay has this very unique structure where its first half is set in the day and the evening yet the second act is spent largely at night at this party. Notably as its first half showcase the growing division between Giovanni and Lidia where they spend the day together visiting their ailing friend Tomasso (Bernhard Wicki) at the hospital where Giovanni later has a strange encounter with nymphomaniac patient as they later attend a party for Giovanni’s new book where Lidia wanders around Milan. Lidia’s journey and Giovanni’s encounters with strange things including the adulation he receives both would have some serious repercussions for the two as they decide to have a night together going to a nightclub and later attend the party. It’s this party that drives the film’s second half where it’s clear that even though they attend the party as a couple. They’re both in very different worlds based on the way they behave at the party and the people they encounter.

Though Lidia is wracked with grief and sentimentality, she does meet a man named Roberto (Giorgio Negro) whom she dances with but it’s only she spends time with after Giovanni would meet the party host’s daughter Valentina (Monica Vitti). Lidia’s observation at the party only showcases how lost she is where despite the fact that she’s well-dressed and being treated graciously by the hosts. She doesn’t feel like she’s fitting in where she later becomes more depressed until she meets Roberto where she considers having a brief fling. Giovanni’s encounter with Valentina would be playful but also would have Giovanni face some revelations about himself as Valentina is this intriguing young woman who has ambitions but is also uncertain about herself. Yet, it just adds to Giovanni’s own sense of confusion as he’s often asked by many about his work and such where he doesn’t have the answers while Valentina’s father (Vincenzo Corbella) would offer him a job which surprises Giovanni who admits that he doesn’t need the money. The course of the night would lead to Giovanni and Lidia coming together where they are forced to face the realities about themselves and their marriage.

Michelangelo Antonioni’s direction is very exotic in the way he presents the film as this very intimate yet haunting portrait of alienation. Notably as he opens the film with images of Milan from an elevator as it’s going up and down to showcase a world that is definitely changing. It’s a world where Giovanni and Lidia don’t seem to recognize as it could be stated as a visual metaphor for their own disintegrating marriage. Notably as the long sequence of Lidia wandering around Milan from the city to its outskirts where she witness a fight and later witnesses young men shooting rockets off to the ground near the old home that she and Giovanni lived in when they first got married. Giovanni would be alone at the apartment he and Lidia lived in where the images that Antonioni creates showcase a man at a crossroads in his life as he’s looking out at the city and other buildings around him.

Antonioni’s direction is filled with these striking compositions and images that has some of the actors be placed into the edge of the frame or use something like the mirrors at the villa to express a sense of detachment that is happening around them. Notably the film’s second half where Giovanni and Lidia both go into their own adventures as Antonioni uses the wide and medium shots to showcase their growing alienation amidst this era of decadence where people are having a good time. Though Giovanni would have fun at first and later Lidia, both definitely feel lost as the film progresses where Giovanni’s time with Valentina would be playful but also filled with some dramatic moments as Valentina would have this monologue to state about the idea of being the other woman.

Even as she would also have a moment with Lidia where two women just talk as it would play to Giovanni’s own sense of isolation. It would all come to this final scene as it is told with such simplicity but also a moment that is quite intense dramatically about how far Giovanni and Lidia have come in the course of an entire day. Much of it has Antonioni gazing at the camera with these shots that are quite long where many of what he does won’t be for everyone yet it expresses the sense of loss that is prevalent throughout the film. Overall, Antonioni creates a very chilling yet ravishing portrait of a couple falling out of love.

Cinematographer Gianni De Venanzo does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography with its use of shadows to convey that sense of loneliness as well as many of the interior and exterior lighting schemes to help set a mood that includes the scenes set at night. Editor Eraldo Da Roma does excellent work with the film‘s editing where it is quite straightforward in terms of its cutting while it spends most of its time not wanting to cut for some of the film‘s most entrancing moments. Production designer Pierro Zuffi does fantastic work with the set pieces from the look of the villa where the party is held to the apartment home where Giovanni and Lidia live in.

The sound work of Claudio Maielli is brilliant for its mixing and array of sounds to play into the sense of loneliness and growing modernism that is prevalent throughout the film. The film’s music by Giorgio Gaslini is superb for its jazz-based score that is played on location at the party scenes along with a very moody, ominous piece at the film’s opening credits scene.

The film’s incredible cast includes some notable small performances from Giorgio Nergo as the man Lidia meets in Roberto, Vincenzo Corbello and Gitt Magrini as Valentina’s parents, Roberta Speroni as an old friend of Lidia’s at the party, and Rosy Mazzacurati as a fan of Giovanni’s work who keeps asking him questions about writing. Bernhard Wicki is excellent as Giovanni and Lidia’s ailing friend Tomasso who is happy with their presence though he would cast a haunting presence on Lidia who is really close to him. Monica Vitti is amazing as Valentina as this very charming young woman who woos Giovanni yet is uncertain about becoming a married man’s mistress.

The performances of Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau are remarkable in their respective roles as Giovanni and Lidia Pontano as a couple falling out of love. Mastroianni has this presence that is full of charm and wit but also a sense of humility and uncertainty as a writer who thinks his brains can’t really offer enough importance to the world as he is also troubled by his lust for other women. Moreau is far more entrancing in the way she conveys this woman as a frustrated wife who feels lost in her world as everything from her past is going away as she is also trying to see if there’s any future. Mastroianni and Moreau create this chemistry that is quite interesting to display this sense of detachment that is lurking around them as they just add that sense of emotional weight to bring this couple falling out of love.

The 2013 Region 1 DVD/Region A Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection presents the film in 1:85:1 theatrical aspect ratio under a new digital restoration from a 4k film transfer and Dolby Digital Mono sound with English subtitles. The DVD includes a few special features that relate to the film and its filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni. The 27-minute interview with film critic Adriano Apra and film historian Carlo di Carlo about the film and Antonioni. Apra dominates most of the interview as he talks about the film and its themes with di Carlo talking about Antonioni and his approach to the film. Both of them dwell into many of the visual traits of the film as well as its theme on alienation as it is truly an engaging little featurette about the film.

The 31-minute interview with Harvard professor Giuliana Bruno about the architecture of the film. Bruno plays into a lot of the visual style that Antonioni wanted with the buildings of Milan that was to present something that seemed abstract and metaphoric. Notably to convey the sense of something that is happening and Antonioni’s fascination with that world. Bruno also reveals the importance of the use of the mirrors and glasses in the film that helps adds to the visual style as it’s a very compelling piece that explores Antonioni’s visual style. The DVD also includes a 3-minute trailer that presents the film in an offbeat way.

The DVD/Blu Ray set also includes a booklet that features two pieces of text relating to the film. The first is an essay entitled Modern Love by film critic Richard Brody of the New Yorker. Brody’s essay talks about the film and its approach to abstract art as well as play into its theme of alienation in tune with the disintegrating marriage between Giovanni and Lidia. The second piece of text is from the late Michelangelo Antonioni which is an article he wrote for a French newspaper to coincide with the film’s release. Antonioni talks about the inspiration for the film and small tidbits about the development for the film as both text pieces are wonderful accompaniments to the film and its DVD extras.

La Notte is an enchanting yet exotic film from Michelangelo Antonioni. Thanks to its ravishing yet abstract visual style and the performances of Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, and Monica Vitti. It’s a film that explores alienation at its most haunting as well as the idea of love fading away. While it’s not an easy film to watch due its lack of strong plot and slow, methodical pacing. It is still a film that captures the idea of the end of a marriage. In the end, La Notte is a phenomenal film from Michelangelo Antonioni.

Michelangelo Antonioni Films: (Story of a Love Affair) - (I Vinti) - (The Lady Without Camelias) - (Le Amiche) - (Il Grido) - L'Avventura - L’Eclisse - Red Desert - Blow-Up - Zabriskie Point - (Chung Kuo, Cina) - The Passenger - (The Mystery of Oberwald) - (Identification of a Woman) - (Beyond the Clouds) - Eros-The Dangerous Thread of Things

© thevoid99 2013

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