MadZack’s review published on Letterboxd:
I did a thing: www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhCyZyA9YlU
How do I put this delicately? La Notte is simply the finest film I have ever seen. I have reached this point after much careful consideration. The mastery of the film is inescapable and the conclusion I have come to feels inevitable. La Notte is a perfect example of the cinema's ultimate grammar. It's the best film in the whole world.
La Notte is a film of reflections, of internalized deterioration made visibly external through false extensions of our composite social selves. Giovanni's novels are imprecise reflections of his intellectualism. His wife, Lidia, is an untrue, forced reflection of his masculine and social worth. The role of architecture in La Notte serves as the mirror itself, casting off reflections of dehumanized characters within an unromantic anti-space outside of time within modernity. Idle periods of banality serve as literal extensions of an anti-symbolic landscape. The overwhelming architecture sculpts the characters into despondents. Banality is pre-established on the grounds of self-displacement as an unfelt reaction to being an image, a composite, a reflection of a miserable truth.
Like the architecture, the characters are made up of nearly emptied spaces, retaining only biological and geophysical descriptions. Antonioni's camera maintains a remarkably astute metaphorical literalism even while an anti-symbolic cinematic language is being utilized to express the inexpressible nature of being. It is this anti-symbolic, wholly meaningful and expressive technical display that sets La Notte apart from every other film ever made. The film's grammar is simply better than any other. The language Antonioni employs is daring, complex, rich, rewarding, and multi-faceted, anti-symbolic but populated with poetic meaning, creating within La Notte a multiplex color prism in the name of the socially dispossessed.
La Notte's unique aesthetic make-up is given identification through abstraction. Antonioni wisely, also curiously, seeps his film in lightly neorealist motifs within a carefully constructed universe of anti-pathos. La Notte is the ultimate realization of the most perfect film language, a dialect Antonioni first began exploring in L'Avventura. La Notte is the finalization of that beautiful screen rhetoric.
Secret Weapon: Monica Vitti - La Notte has a key. It has a hidden magic. La Notte's secret weapon is found in Monica Vitti. It is Vitti who transforms La Notte into something ethereal. Antonioni's longtime muse served as a reflection of Giovanni's own musings. As Valentina, a wealthy industrialist's daughter, Vitti refused to adhere to the set narrative system of nonreactive physical metaphors. Valentina seemed to exist entirely outside of Antonioni's established dehumanized landscape. He bestowed in her character qualities that outright conflicted with the qualities of Antonioni's coldly referential universe. Valentina was something truly beautiful that you genuinely desired. She smoldered in spite of the film's attitude, or rather because of it. She was unpredictable, in conflict with banality. She was absolutely breathtaking and surprisingly daring, in stark contrast to the emptied spaces of routine self-absorption. She was also terribly tormented, honestly discontent, yet even in Valentina's similarities she remains so unequivocally dissimilar. She despises unnecessary sounds, words, phrases, and social graces. Valentina hates language. She records her own idea of grammar and erases it upon reflecting over it.
Valentina, in a nearly metaphysical departure, side-steps Antonioni's own cinematic language and simply refuses to speak it. La Notte is a film of reflections and every time Valentina sees hers, it disturbs her to no end and she immediately discards its value. Antonioni used pure movie magic to give Valentina her mesmerizing, sensual quality, but he sculpted the poetic meaning of her character out of the self-conscious rejection of the film's artistic worth and systemic correspondence. Valentina was all about rebellion. She lit up the screen and stole the show because she wanted to. Valentina was exquisite, unearthly. She was the cog that refused to spin. Valentina wouldn't allow herself to be controlled by Antonioni. Michelangelo responded to her insubordination by giving her absolute freedom. In La Notte, Valentina was a self-styled blue cool.
Antonioni demonstrates objective value through the photographable flexibility of his camera within immovable optical constructs. It's a feminine expression of psychological dexterity. Antonioni was a woman's director and his films reflect his philosophy concerning them. Lidia and Valentina are much more aware of their plight than Giovanni. He seems clueless to the causal properties of his own dissatisfaction. The two main women of La Notte recognize the base materials of their quasi-suffering. They seem to understand their absurd Russian doll existence of living as reflections of reflections. Lidia excavates modernization and meditates in solitude, in a fortified den within herself that gives her an idea of the benefits of refusing to reflect a nature other than your own. She separates herself from the mirror of her unfulfilling marriage while Giovanni remains oblivious to the prisms he creates inside of the sham. Giovanni is nearly intrinsically uninvolved.
La Notte is a haunting masterwork. It thrills me beyond belief. It is the ultimate art film. It has consumed me. Michelangelo Antonioni speaks to me like no other artist has. It's as if his films were made just for me. La Notte is a fascinating experience. In the wide world of film, La Notte is the Zeus of my life. Like lightning, it strikes me.