Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘La Notte’ Gets a Lush 4K Restoration

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La Notte

The way we think about Italian people and their culture is that of a people that are brimming with unbridled passion. Their language is that of romance and seduction, and their artistic expressions also embody this in many regards. Then there are the films by certain Italian filmmakers that shun this romanticism, like Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte. Within the black and white frames of La Notte is a romance where the fire of love has long been extinguished. Throughout all the gorgeous faces and scenic cinematography, Antonioni has crafted an enduring subversion of the stereotypical Italian passions which come to vivid life in the new 4K restoration shepherded by the good people over at Rialto Pictures.

Legendary Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni stars as Giovanni Pontano, an author and intellectual living in Milan with his wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau). La Notte takes place over one day and one long evening in their increasingly acrimonious lives together. They start out by visiting a dear friend who is ill in the hospital. After that the couple make their way to a party for the release of Giovanni’s latest book, but Lidia soon sneaks out to wander the streets alone as her husband puts on a brave face and hobnobs with the adoring crowd. Shortly after their subdued reunion, Giovanni and Lidia go out to a nightclub where they’re entertained by a contortionist dance, though the entertainment factor seems to be lost on Giovanni. Finally, they saunter to the outskirts of town to an expansive and modern mansion. Again, Lidia is discontented and wanders away from her husband as he makes the rounds with various wealthy industrialists before becoming infatuated with young, beautiful Valentina (Monica Vitti). Basically, La Notte is the day in the life of a disintegrating marriage.

It’s not until the conclusion of La Notte that Giovanni and Lidia dare confront themselves on the growing distance between them with words. Before that point, it’s all about physical distance and words left unspoken. As Lidia, Jeanne Moreau wears the internal emotional pain of her dissolving union on her face, and her character roams around in a manner that she’d always rather be somewhere else than she is right now. Conversely, Marcello Mastroianni plays his emotional state a little closer to the vest, somewhat aloof as to the emotional state of his wife. Mastroianni displays the suave demeanor that made him an icon, but there’s a level of self-absorption that permates through every facet of a character to a level unlike anything else he’s ever done before, including his iconic role in 8 1/2.

The screenplay by Antonioni, Ennio Flaiano, and Tonino Guerra withholds the overt emotional scenes for an overall tone of a growing chasm between the married couple. It’s a slow build that culminates at dawn in absolute heartbreak. The mounting tension and distrust between the two is palpable and only becomes more noticeable as the film progresses. Amplifying this growing tension is the gorgeous cinematography from Gianni Di Venanzo, which features some of the most stunning black and white cinematography of the ‘60s. The stunning visuals work in unison with the film’s story and the sometimes unnerving score by Giorgio Gaslini.

La Notte is a visually beautiful film featuring some visually stunning actors in a story that has an ugly, decaying heart. One of the great films by Michelangelo Antonioni, La Notte is now the subject of another magnificent restoration from Rialto Pictures that emphasizes its visceral beauty amidst the wreckage of a marriage. With Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, and Monica Vitti front and center in the lush cinematography of La Notte, the disillusion of a marriage has never looked so good.

The 4K restoration of La Notte is currently playing at the Film Forum in New York City and Laemmle’s Royal in Los Angeles. For more theater listings visit Rialto Pictures’ website

La Notte
  • Overall Score
4.5

Summary

A classic from Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, La Notte features powerful performances from Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, and Monica Vitti in a visually beautiful examination of a marriage in crisis.

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