La Notte (The Night) (1961)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 2-Feb-2007

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Michaelangelo Antonioni : A Portrait
Audio Commentary-Roland Caputo Lecturer in Cinema at La Trobe University and
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1961
Running Time 116:24 (Case: 115)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Michelangelo Antonioni
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Marcello Mastroianni
Jeanne Moreau
Monica Vitti
Bernhard Wicki
Rosy Mazzacurati
Maria Pia Luzi
Guido A. Marsan
Vittorio Bertolini
Vincenzo Corbella
Ugo Fortunati
Gitt Magrini
Giorgio Negro
Roberta Speroni
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $27.95 Music Giorgio Gaslini


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Fans of classic Italian cinema have a right to be confused and annoyed at some of the decisions made by the film studios as to:

(a) which films to release in Region 4; and

(b) in which order.

No better case in point exists than the films of Michaelangelo Antonioni. Last year I reviewed his first full length feature Cronaca di un Amore and more recently his first colour feature Il Deserto Rosso ( The Red Desert). That film was arguably the fourth in an otherwise loose trilogy of films that began with L'Aventura in 1960, then La Notte in 1961 and finally L'Eclisse in 1962. Fans are therefore being treated to his films in a chaotic reverse order!

Critics are fairly divided on the merits of La Notte with most feeling that it pales beside L'Avventura. In my view the three films (and Red Desert at a pinch) are perfect complements to each other and gather meaning as a series notwithstanding that Antonioni did not write them as a formal set.

They all deal with themes of loneliness and unhappiness in modern Italy. All feature Antonioni's wife and muse Monica Vitti usually as a bored and frustrated wife.

In boomtown post-war Milan, Giovanni, a moderately successful writer, (Marcello Mastroianni) is married to Lidia ( Jeanne Moreau) a woman from a wealthy family. He is bored and listless in their marriage and she is equally frustrated. Incredibly Antonioni gives us an opening 20 minutes where the characters are framed together and engage in conversations but do not actually talk to each other.

Their marriage is effectively over. He is tempted by other women and she is prone to taking long walks to the place where they fell in love.

For one long day and night the couple question their love and commitment for each other. The first half of the movie is set in various locations such as a hospital where the couple are visiting a dying friend and a nightclub where they try to behave like married people. She deals with the loss of love by wandering off and he waits at home. The second half, the night of the title, is spent at a party at the house of a rich industrialist.

Each is drawn to the company of others. Giovanni finds himself attracted to Valentina ( Monica Vitti) the daughter of the industrialist. As the party comes to an end and the sun begins to rise it is time for serious decision making.

That's about it for the plot. Antonioni has never been interested in the story, rather he tries to capture the languid mood of couples in crisis. Antonioni worked from a script created with long time collaborator Tonino Guerra and Fellini scriptwriter Ennio Flianno which is both spare and yet pregnant with meaning. His female leads, particularly in his golden era, are always melancholic and sometimes on the edge of breakdown. His men are often well meaning but unable to provide any real emotional support.

For some the slow moving pace of the film will be a negative yet for others it is an attraction. La Notte has a delicate measured pace which never flags but gently points to the climax.

Some amazing scenes are those in which very little happens. Some critics, such as Jonathan Rosenbaum from the Chicago Reader, find the long, symbol heavy walk by Moreau at the beginning of the film to be a misstep. For me it is Antonioni at his finest, creating a visual poetry of simple and apparently unmotivated movements. All the time there is tension in the walk such as where she comes upon a pair of fighting men, breaks up the fight and is then followed by the victor.

Throughout Antonioni is on top form. Shot in a crisp black and white it is superbly lit and photographed. The contrast between the architecture of the modern Milan and the industrialist villa are a study in form and content. The opening tracking shot down the side of a recent Milan office building is one virtuoso moment. Another is when Lidia leaves the party with an unknown man. As they drive away through pouring rain they converse at length and the camera tracks around the exterior of the car. We hear the sound of the engine and the rain but the conversation is unheard. It is moments like these that charge the otherwise static air.

As Giovanni, Mastroianni perfectly captures the air of emptiness and he meets a brilliant foil in Moreau who conveys beauty and boredom in the flash of her eyes. Vitti has a smaller yet important role as the slightly unwilling temptress.

La Notte is not for everyone. It is a further example of Antonioni as a "poet of malaise" but its glacial pace and lack of climaxes will try the impatient or those waiting for something to "happen". For me it is an example of the perfect marriage of idea and visual poetry that has greater meaning precisely because nothing happens. Each small movement and decision then assumes a heavier weight.

La Notte was the winner of the Golden Bear at the 1961 Berlin Film Festival.

Here's hoping that L'Eclisse and L'Avventura won't be too far off the release radar!

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    La Notte was shot at an original aspect ratio of 1.66:1 being European standard widescreen. The version presented here is a non-anamorphic 4:3 standard letterboxed transfer.

The decision is curious when the version of The Red Desert from Madman ( and only two years later) presented by Madman is a glorious 16x9 enhanced version.

The source print is unrestored and still exhibits the tell-tale signs of age. It has artefacts throughout and stray hairs at the edge of the frame from time to time. I gave up listing them after the fourth!

There is a degree of flicker present and the black levels aren't as deep as one would like. The grain levels are appropriate for the age and era of the film.

Despite this, I still felt that the film looked pretty good for its age. There was no actual damage to the print and it flowed quite nicely without any missing frames. The beautiful black and white cinematography of Gianni Di Venanzo can be appreciated for his clever compositions and balance of lighting. Shadows and reflections appear throughout the film and the transfer gives them the respect they deserve.

There are English subtitles which are removable. The letterboxing does have one benefit in that most of the subtitles appear below the film frame and therefore don't regularly interfere with the image.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    La Notte is presented on DVD with an Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s) soundtrack.

This is consistent with it's original cinema presentation. The soundtrack itself is a little tired and there is a low level hiss throughout. Still it is perfectly acceptable and the dialogue comes through clearly. Audio sync appears good although there must have been a fair bit of post production sound work.

The music for the film is largely jazz based which suits the whole vibe of the movie. The composer, Giorgio Gaslini, plays one of the musicians at the party and they become an anchor point for the action as well as providing the "live" soundtrack for the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Featurette Michelangelo Antonioni : A Portrait

Inexplicably this feature is the same one that appears on the Madman release of Il Deserto Rosso. It is something of a disappointment for fans who buy both films. It is, nonetheless, an excellent feature. In my review of Il Deserto Rosso I said: This lengthy feature is not so much a documentary but rather a chronology of Michelangelo Antonioni's career as seen through interviews, film excerpts and footage of him working and directing his various features. It is from the Timeless Cinema series and, like the similar features for Bertolucci and de Sica, it provides not only an effective career summary but also a chance to see footage that is almost inexplicably still in existence.

I watched the documentary again to see the references to La Notte. We see some location filming at the villa and interestingly, film of Antonioni receiving a Best Director Award. He tries to dispel the notion that he is an intellectual filmmaker. However, he says that films should never be made simply to make money - they should be created to be "as beautiful as possible."

It is also interesting that in his description he gives a more optimistic view of the film that my reading of it. Certainly the end of the film is ambiguous as to the fate of the marriage.

Audio Commentary

The audio commentary is provided by Rolando Caputo, Lecturer in Cinema at La Trobe University and Editor of Senses of Cinema.

Mr. Caputo also provided the commentary for The Red Desert , so his knowledge and understanding of Antonioni's films is unquestioned. Fortunately, he is also an interesting speaker combining the more obvious aspects of the directors work in the film with the more difficult thematic ideas. In other words, it is a commentary that can be enjoyed by the hardcore cinephile as much as the movie fan.

Although the commentary is a walkthrough of the film it covers such interesting topics as the heavy use of glass and reflections throughout the film and the careful framing of his actors to give the film meaning. More so than some other films from the period La Notte is a film of sufficient depth that it benefits from close analysis and study.

Another excellent commentary for Region 4 viewers.

Theatrical Trailer

The trailer is in Italian without subtitles. It has the jazzy score underneath which tends to give the film more of a "fun" aspect that the final film.

Trailer

A selection of Umbrella classic releases.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    La Notte has not had a long and distinguished history on DVD.

The Region 1 version has no extras making the local release eminently preferable.

Summary

    La Notte is a rare film and it is a treat to see it on DVD. It would have been nice to have had a fully restored version but as it is, warts and all, it is still acceptable.

The extras are excellent if you don't already have the main documentary on the Red Desert release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, March 12, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX - SR603
SpeakersOnkyo 6.1 Surround

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE