Movie Review: La Notte

By Moira Sullivan
Movie Magazine International
La Notte by Michelangelo Antonioni is the story of the sour marriage between the celebrated writer Giovanni Pontano played by Marcello Mastroianni and his wealthy wife Lydia Pontano played by Jeanne Moreau. They have survived many years together and are in the depths of major disenchantment. Jeanne Moreau was 33 at the time and her exotic and sophisticated looks captivate the screen. While her husband is invited to book signing parties she takes off and wanders aimlessly observing people and places, eventually to a part of the suburbs where she once lived with Giovanni and they were happy. La Notte was recently screened as part of an exhibition at the Modern Museum in Stockholm on design in Milan and Turin. The film is set in Milan in the early 60ís, a modern cold and efficient city. Airplanes fly overhead and destroy the calm. They can be heard while the Pontanos' visit their best friend Tommaso Garani who is dying in the hospital. Lydia leaves the room in tears. A female patient tries to later seduce Giovanni who doesnít offer much protest. Her nurses walk in on this and he leaves. He later tells Lydia that he is going to tell her something unpleasant, "do you have to"? she coolly replies. Lydia and Giovanni later go to a nightclub to watch some erotic dancing, which Giovanni gives his full attention to while Lydia tries vainly to reach him. They decide to go to the party of a wealthy businessman. Giovanni tempts fate again with the daughter of the host who is the wealthy owner of a large company. Valentina Gherardini played by Monica Vitti who at the time Vitti was three years younger than Moreau convincingly plays a 22 year old. Giovanni is enamored by Valentinaís joy for life, something that Lydia unemotionally observes. She too takes a ride with another guest at the party but turns him down when he wants more. About this time everyone has jumped into the swimming pool fully dressed.
Antonioniís films use landscape as a major protagonist, and in La Notte is it urban landscapes with empty cocktail party rituals. There is not an excessive amount of dialogue with many spaces in conversation. Moreau is part of the landscape, her physical body transecting different spaces, and encounters with people. The large imposing mansion of Mr. Gherardini is like Milan, cold and functional. The frivolity of the party with guests also crisscross a sober landscape. Valentina amuses herself with a game on the floor. Giovanni is offered a job with her father, something that will free himself from living on the wealth of his wife. And there is the possibility he can start afresh with Valentina. All seems too perfect. The events seem random yet there is an order. More than anything La Notte conveys the emptiness of modern city life and the antiseptic effect of affluence and fame. Lydia tells Giovanni that she doesnít love him anymore and he suddenly realizes that he hasnít been paying attention to her (for a long time). He refuses to accept her rejection and struggles to show emotion. For the second time in this film this emotional outburst seems out of place for nowhere is it possible to show human warmth other than through the scenes of the dying Tommasso or the imminent death of a cold and efficient relationship.

For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan Stockholm SWEDEN
More Information:
La Notte
Italy/France - 1961