La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961)


Marcello Mastroianni (Giovanni Pontano), Jeanne Moreau (Lidia), Monica Vitti (Valentina). Screenplay by Michelangelo Antonioni et al. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Rating: 12. Running time: 115 minutes.

Excruciatingly sluggish to the extent that it threatens to rival a Bergman film for reaching new heights on the boringometer, Antonioni’s La Notte is seemingly content to hobble along at a pace that will test even the most devout arthouse aficionados to the limit. I’m not sure what it says about Kubrick that this was one of his favourite films. Nor, I’m afraid, am I sure in the slightest as to what the source of appreciation is supposed to be here, but if one thing’s clear it’s undoubtedly that it’s not the story. The full two hours revolve around a marriage’s disintegration, but don’t start thinking Revolutionary Road. We have absolutely no idea what leads husband and wife here to start flirting with other party guests, and the screenplay’s not going to steer us through things as events unfold, if only because there are no real events as opposed to merely some constant, casual minor plot progressions, but also because there’s no real dialogue beyond what’s necessary to keep our having ears worthwhile. Their aloofness with one another is vaguely reminiscent of Contempt, but otherwise we’re in new waters. Unfortunately, they don’t bring a shoal of tropical fish. For all the film’s dullness and drowsiness we may as well be swimming with trout.

I know, I know, it’s all about the images instead or something, but I bet you my house you’ll find focusing on them about as tedious as strolling around the Tate Modern. This ain’t no show of pretentiousness cloaked in enjoyable populism a la Blow-Up. It’s just the former. For sure, that the same auteur is behind both is relatively discernible from the vocal minimalism they share, and the tendency of both to use theatre-tricks for kicks that I can only assume is an Antonioni trademark (where Blow-Up had silent pantomime, La Notte has gymnastic dancing). But this film is drastically deficient of normalising touches, and the price to be paid for that is, I am sure, anyone claiming to enjoy its lengthy sequences of nothing much at all somehow fooling themselves. I hope to God that when I finally get round to seeing L’Avventura, I see why I’ve saved it and understand all the historic hype to be justified. If it’s anything like La Notte, though, I know for sure that won’t be happening.

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