La Notte

La Notte ★★★½

#20 of 100 in my Top 100 Directors Challenge

Although I could appreciate many merits of this film about a marriage in decline by writer-director Michelangelo Antonioni, I didn't really enjoy it. Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau give restrained, passionless performances as husband and wife Giovanni and Lidia Pontano, as they navigate an eventful evening and one long night in Milan. There's certainly the same controlled boredom here that I found interesting in "L'Avventura" (1960), but it wasn't working for me this time.

The couple's time together takes them first to a hospital to visit their terminally ill friend Tommaso Garani (Bernhard Wicki) before attending a book launch for Giovanni's newly published novel. There's a stop at home to change into evening wear, a visit to a nightclub where a contortionist performs an act with a wine glass, and then a late arrival at the massive estate of industrialist Mr. Gherardini (Vincenzo Corbella) and his wife (Gitt Magrini), who are throwing a celebration for their new race horse.

Throughout the various stops in this journey, the Pontanos are quite separate in their attentions, cordial to each other, but not close. Giovanni is clearly attracted to other women, and Lidia takes some interest in other men. But it is the Gherardini's bored and beautiful daughter Valentina (Monica Vitti) who arouses the most interest in them after a sudden rain storm and a power outage shifts the mood of the party to greater intimacy.

Perhaps if I had been in a melancholy mood when I watched this, I might have felt more attune to its emotional nuances. Nevertheless, the film won Antonioni the Golden Berlin Bear, and he also received Best Director prizes from both the David di Donatello Awards and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. Perhaps I'll watch it again someday and like it better.

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