The films of Michelangelo Antonioni have always been about mood and La Notte (The Night) is no exception. We follow a wealthy couple ((Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau) through one day, getting to view their deteriorating relationship from the inside as they move through Milan and spend the night at an extravagant party.
Shot in crisp black and white, Antonioni’s film is a stylish mood piece. It’s about malaise and ennui, the things that only rich people suffer from in moves. They never have real problems. They never worry about paying the gas bill or an fixing the plumbing. I’m down with that – that’s what the movies are about. This 1961 effort hits the right notes – it’s cool and classy – it’s what an Italian movie from 1961 should be like. It’s all about the internal struggle, the fear of death and the feeling that life has to mean something within the bigger picture. Weighty themes in a microcosm.
Mastroianni is one cool cat. He’s smooth, playing character jazz as he slinks and smokes his way through the movie. Moreau also plays it cool, but her work is in stillness, it’s reflective. Her character is a lot different from Mastroianni’s writer, who is faced with the crisis of holding out for his art, or selling-out. It’s all about the political subtext.
La Notte looks great – they don’t shoot films like this anymore, but much of what makes the film work is the camera and the atmosphere. It’s very voyeuristic, but it’s not style over substance. This doesn’t have the excess of Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, it might not be about plot but it is about character. La Notte plays like a short story – in pieces, it might not work, but taken as a whole it’s an impressive feat.
Italian Cinema from the ‘60s has a certain reputation – artistic and impressionistic, La Notte is that stereotype and it’s all the better for it. It’s a classy film, that’s beautifully paced and well acted. They acting isn’t flashy, it’s all internal in a less is more type of way, much like the movie itself.