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losing it at the movies: la notte (michelangelo antonioni, 1961)

The fourth in a series, "Losing It at the Movies," which is explained here.

The early-60s were a fruitful period for the primary film makers involved in La Notte:

Michelangelo Antonioni: L'Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), L'Eclisse (1962) (all with Monica Vitti)

Jeanne Moreau: La Notte (1961), Jules and Jim (1962)

Marcello Mastroianni: La Dolce Vita (1960), La Notte (1961), 8 1/2 (1963)

In 5001 Nights at the Movies, Kael wrote of La Notte:

In Antonioni’s earlier L’Avventura, which was also about the moral and spiritual poverty of the rich, his architectural sense was integral to the theme and characters; here, the abstract elements take over, and the drama becomes glacial. And his conception is distasteful: his characters seem to find glamour in their own desolation and emptiness. They are cardboard intellectuals—a sort of international café society—and their lassitude seems an empty pose. Marcello Mastroianni plays a blank-faced famous novelist; as his wife, Jeanne Moreau walks endlessly, with the camera fixated on her rear; and Monica Vitti is a brunette with money up to her ears and nothing to do.

Whenever I write about Antonioni's trilogy from 1960-1962, I note that Kael seems to have influenced me in some secret way, for like her, I think L'Avventura is a masterpiece, and also like her, I don't think the other two pictures match the first. At this point, I'm just throwing my arms in the air ... Kael influence or not, I have watched L'Avventura several times, and look forward to watching it again, while the most I can say for La Notte and L'Eclisse is that I'm glad I saw them. There is much to appreciate in La Notte ... the look (Gianni Di Venanzo is the cinematographer, but Antonioni surely deserves a lot of credit for how it turns out), and while the acting is variable, I liked Monica Vitti quite a bit. Mastroianni accomplishes what the director wanted, but the actor is on record that he thought the part should have had more depth, although he accepts that Antonioni wanted something else ("a blank-faced famous novelist", in Kael's words). Thus, his character is dull, although with Marcello Mastroianni, even a blank face is nice to look at. As for Moreau, I fear this was indeed an example of Kael influencing me ... once I read her comment about the camera's fixation on her rear, I couldn't get it out of my head, and sure enough, there are a LOT of shots of Moreau walking away from the camera.

Trying to figure out why I prefer L'Avventura to the others, I once wrote, "Perhaps my problem is that L’Avventura’s greatness lies in part in the way the emptiness is ultimate rather than complete. Claudia’s journey takes us from a place of hope to one of pitiful acceptance, and that journey is key to L’Avventura. In the other films in the trilogy, the emptiness is there from the start; it is complete, and there is no journey." I felt this quite strongly while watching La Notte. There is no Claudia. No one is markedly different at the end of La Notte than they are at the beginning. I don't agree with Kael that they find their lives glamorous. But there isn't a lot of there, there.

A couple of trivia notes from IMDB that don't surprise me. La Notte is one of Stanley Kubrick's favorite films. And La Notte is one of Lars von Trier's favorite films. #237 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.

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