La Notte

1961

La Notte

Critics Consensus

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83%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 23

91%

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User Ratings: 5,498
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Movie Info

La Notte is another of Michelangelo Antonioni's cinematic interrupted journeys. Just as no one solved the central mystery in Antonioni's L'Avventura, neither does anyone truly enjoy the literary party that is La Notte's centerpiece. The party is being thrown to celebrate the publication of author Marcello Mastrioanni's new novel. But before he even reaches the door of the house, Mastrioanni's evening is ruined when his wife Jeanne Moreau announces suddenly she is disgusted with him--this reaction evidently triggered by an earlier visit to a dying friend. Moreau skips out on the party to wander the streets, searching for...for what? Meanwhile, Mastrioanni tries to inaugurate an empty affair with Monica Vitti, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. The very elements that drive Mastrioanni and Moreau apart at the beginning of the film reunite them at the end. Maybe. L'Avventura and La Notte were the first two chapters in Antonioni's "barreness and alienation" trilogy; the third, L'Eclisse, was released two years later. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Marcello Mastroianni
as Giovanni Pontano
Monica Vitti
as Valentina Gherardini
Bernhard Wicki
as Tommaso Garani
Vincenzo Corbella
as Mr. Gherardini

Critic Reviews for La Notte

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (4)

  • Ennui and eroticism make an oddly alluring combo in Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte.

    Sep 16, 2016 | Full Review…
  • For Antonioni, beginnings and endings aren't plot points on a narrative graph; they resonate everywhere, entwined and inseparable.

    Sep 15, 2016 | Full Review…
  • The romantic conflicts of an intellectual couple in bourgeois Milan come to life in a visually dazzling yet psychologically dislocating pageant of clashing architectural styles.

    Sep 12, 2016 | Full Review…
  • It's impossible to discern the relevance of this kind of film-making, which is doubtless why nobody (including Antonioni) practises it any more.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Whatever one's occasional misgivings, this feature comes from what is widely considered to be Antonioni's richest period, and evidence of his stunning mastery is available throughout.

    Apr 20, 2001 | Full Review…
  • While it is the most interesting film I've seen this season, it did seem the mixture as before... Having said all of which, let me now say that La Notte has some things in it as good as anything in cinema.

    Jul 30, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for La Notte

  • Feb 05, 2018
    Towards the end of 'La Notte', a married couple (Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni) are walking across the fairway of a golf course. They are as emotionally distant as the two trees they approach which stand side by side, not touching. Behind them stretches the past which has led them to this point, their marriage failing, and before them is a very uncertain future. The entire film builds up to this moment, and it's powerful. We get a first insight into Mastroianni's character when he can't resist a mentally ill woman's advances after leaving his dying friend in a hospital, with his wife waiting in tears below. It's a very surprising moment, and it's underlined by director Michelangelo Antonioni when he later shows Mastroianni not interested in the least when Moreau is naked and getting out of the bathtub. In one moment after another from then on, through their dialog, his obvious interests in other women, and her ennui, we find just how poor their relationship has become. I have to say, this film was a little slow in the first half as Moreau wanders through the streets of Milan, having left her husband's book signing. I mean, if there's anyone I would like to see wandering around, stopping young men from fighting, watching bottle rockets get set off, meeting a variety of people, etc it would be Moreau, who is absolutely exquisite, but I did wonder where this was going. However, the ponderous nature of this sequence conveys the malaise in her relationship, and her wandering aimlessly in life, not knowing where to turn. That evening, there is a scene in an erotic nightclub, where Mastroianni is intent on watching a couple of scantily clad dancers, barely paying attention to his bored wife. I thought Antonioni was clumsy in filming this sequence, my least favorite, and the fact that the dancers were black contortionists seemed, I don't know, unnecessarily salacious and stereotypical. I suppose the degree to which the female dancer writhed around is being juxtaposed with the sterility of the couple's interaction, so again, there is a point. Where the film really picked up for me is at the party at a filmmaker's mansion. Mastroianni meets and pursues his host's daughter (Monica Vitti), right under his wife's gaze, and she meets and is pursued by a young man (Giorgio Negro). There are some beautiful images captured here, my favorite of which was Moreau and Negro driving slowly in his car, rain pouring down and streaming across the windows. They're soaked from having been out in the shower, and we see their animated faces, together in the little cocoon of his car, through light and shadow, wondering if this is the start of something new for her. Another is Mastroianni and Vitti playing a silly game on a floor, first with just the two of them, and then with many other party-goers. There is a moment when we see their reflections in a pane of glass, as if they're not real, and simply shadows of themselves. Reflections of one sort or another are a recurring motif in the film. The party itself gets a little wild, with guests jumping in the pool in the rain, which creates some indelible images, but what I loved were the quieter scenes. Moreau saying she doesn't feel the least bit jealous, even as he practically flaunts his infidelity, and that's the biggest problem. The poetry of Vitti's recording: "From the living room today you could hear dialogue from a film on television. 'If I were you, Jim, I wouldn't do that.' After that line, the howling of a dog, slow and sure, rising in a perfect arc and trailing off in a great sadness. Then I thought I heard an airplane, but there was silence, and I was glad. The park is full of silence made up of sounds. If you press your ear to a tree and listen, after a while you'll hear a sound. Perhaps it comes from within us, but I prefer to think it's the tree. Within that silence were strange noises that disturbed the soundscape around me. I closed the window, but the noises persisted. I thought I'd go crazy. I don't want to hear useless sounds. I want to pick them out throughout the day. Same with voices and words. So many words I'd rather not hear, but you can't escape them. You must resign yourself to them, like the waves when you float on your back in the ocean." And then Mastroianni's letter, which is brilliant: "When I awoke this morning, you were still asleep. As I slowly emerged from my slumber, I heard your gentle breathing, and through the wisps of hair over your face, I saw your closed eyes, and I could barely contain my emotion. I wanted to cry out, to wake you up, because you slept so deeply you almost seemed lifeless. In the half light, the skin of your arms and throat appeared so vibrant, so warm and dry, that I longed to press my lips against it, but the thought of disturbing your sleep, of having you awake in my arms again, held me back. I preferred you like this, something no one could take from me because it was mine alone - this image of you that would be everlasting. Beyond your face I saw my own reflection in a vision that was pure and deep. I saw you in a dimension that encompassed all the times of my life, all the years to come, even the years past as I was preparing to meet you. That was the little miracle of this waking moment: to feel for the first time that you were and always would be mine, and that this night would go on forever with you beside me, with the warmth of your blood, your thoughts, and your will mixed with mine. At that moment I understood how much I loved you, Lidia, and the intensity of the emotion was such that tears welled up in my eyes. For I felt that this must never end, that all our lives should be like an echo of this dawn...with you belonging to me but actually a part of me, something breathing within me that nothing could ever destroy except the dull indifference of habit, which is the only threat I see. Then you awoke, and with a sleepy smile kissed me, and I felt there was nothing to fear, that we'd always be as we were at that moment, bound by something stronger than time and habit." Now it seems pretty surprising he would forget he had written that (!), but that fact emphasizes just how far he's drifted. The sentiment he expresses - to hold on to that moment in a relationship - and the sad feeling it evokes hearing it read out loud, is very touching. In life there are few absolutes - friends will die, relationships will stagnate, and other people may come along, but can those powerful early moments of love be sustained, if one clings to them?
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • May 01, 2017
    Antonioni makes all the right choices here and with a remarkable sophistication, using many silent passages to slowly pull us into the characters' ennui while telling an absorbing story about how people are unable to communicate or understand one another.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 05, 2013
    La Notte is like a dream state with a married couple wandering through their emotions through the events of one particular evening which leaves them in a bitter embrace. Masterful.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 06, 2010
    This Antonioni film has caught my attention first when I've recalled how a pointless recommendation to this film was made by "Life of Brian". Then again, reading from a book(from what I remember, "Christianity in Movies" or something along that title), how "impenetrable" this film is. So indeed I gave the film a try, and as I have expected, it's a slow-moving film but never plods(at least in my view), as it was created not for audiences to anticipate every plot developments, but to be attached into it, to be an observer hovering around the apathetic streets of Milan, an eavesdropper looking in into private social parties, and more importantly, a poor fellow watching over a marriage unaware of its decay. Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau captures with their facial expressions, the ennui of an unhappy companionship, walking around, greeting and smiling to people, but never to each other. Maybe it's just me, but I can imagine "La Notte" to be a very potent companion piece to Fellini's "La Dolce Vita", not just the idea of having the same lead, but also the very core which both films unusually share. Both dealt with a writer not knowing much of what to do but to divulge into senseless parties, which vividly, ironically depicts the imperfections of the so-called "perfect life". Yes, "La Notte's" center is a failing marriage, and "La Dolce Vita" about one's existential anxiety, but the similarities between the two films are just worth mentioning, especially both being directed by two uncontested masters of the craft. As much as "La Notte" may look very complex on the surface, Antonioni may have one simple, provocative theme to send through: That the only thing worse than a bitter separation is a marriage pretty much civil in its exterior, but with hidden, deep wounds left to rot within.
    Ivan D Super Reviewer

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