La Notte – The Criterion Collection #678 (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
October 27, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“La Notte” is a fantastic film that I have waited many years for the Criterion Collection to release in the U.S. and now the Blu-ray version is here. As part of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Alienation Trilogy, “La Notte” is another fine masterpiece from the Italian filmmaker with its artist cinematography, its performances by Marcello Mastroiani, Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti and another film that will no doubt make different viewers have a different opinion about the film. And that is the efficacy of an Antonioni film…leaving it to the viewer to interpret the film, like one looking at a painting. “La Notte” is highly recommended!
Image courtesy of © 2013 The Criterion Collection
TITLE: La Notte – The Criterion Collection #678
RELEASE OF FILM: 1961
DURATION: 122 Minutes
BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, Colors, 1:85:1 Aspect Ratio, Monaural in Italian with English Subtitles
COMPANY: Janus Films/The Criterion Collection
RELEASED: October 29, 2013
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Story/Screenplay by Michelangelo Antonioni, Ennio Flaiano, Tonino Guerra
Produced by Emanuele Cassuto
Music by Giorgio Gaslini
Cinematography by Gianni De Venanzo
Edited by Eraldo Da Roma
Production Design by Piero Zuffi
Marcello Mastroianni as Giovanni Pontano
Jeanne Moreau as Lidia
Monica Vitti as Valentina Gherardini
Bernhard Wicki as Tommaso garani
Rosy Mazzacurati as Rosy
Maria Pia Luzi as Un’invitata
Guido A. Marsan as Fanti
This psychologically acute, visually striking modernist work was director Michelangelo Antonioni’s follow-up to the epochal L’avventura. Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau star as a novelist and his frustrated wife, who, over the course of one night, confront their alienation from each other and the achingly empty bourgeois Milan circles in which they travel. Antonioni’s muse Monica Vitti smolders as an industrialist’s tempting daughter. Moodily sensual cinematography and subtly expressive performances make La notte an indelible illustration of romantic and social deterioration.
In 1961, Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni (who had earned the nickname “the Master of Alienation”) released his second film, “La Notte” (which translates to “The Night”) of his alienation trilogy.
The Italian modernist director was known for his radical new style, not following any convention of filmmaking and most of all, characters and events are disconnected.
The first part of the trilogy “L’avventura” (1960) was an international success and would introduce the world to the actress Monica Vitti (“L’Avventura”, “L’Eclisse”, “Red Desert”), a woman who would appear as the main character in several of his films. Antonioni returned with “La Notte” (1961) starring Jeanne Moreau (“Jules and Jim”, “Elevator to the Gallows”, “The Trial”), Marcello Mastroianni (“8 1/2”, “La Dolce Vita”, “Divorce, Italian Style”) and Monica Vitti which focused on the slow death of a marriage and final of the trilogy “L’Eclisse” would focus on the alienation of man in the modern world.
Filmed in Milan, the film received the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and earned Antonioni the “David di Donatello Award” for “Best Director”.
While the “L’avventura” and “L’Eclisse” have been available by the Criterion Collection for years, many have waited for “La Notte” to be released and now in Oct. 2013, the Blu-ray and DVD will be released by The Criterion Collection.
The film revolves around Giovanni Pontano (portrayed by Marcello Mastroianni), a well-known and very successful writer and his wife Lidia (portrayed by Jeanne Moreau).
As the two visit their dying friend Tomasso (portrayed by Bernhard Wicki), while Giovanni and Tomasso talk abut Giovanni’s new book “La Stagione” (The Season), Tomasso gives a compassionate look towards Lidia. But his friends now see how much of pain that Tomasso is in and for Lidia, it’s too much that she has to leave the hospital and promises that she will see him the next day. Both say their goodbyes but as we see Lidia in tears outside the hospital, we see Giovanni being called by a crazed but yet beautiful young woman in the hospital to come to his room.
Giovanni and the young woman begin making out before she is caught by two nurses and slapped. As Giovanni sees his wife in tears, he doesn’t say anything or show any concern. As they drive around in the car to go to a party for the release of his new book, he tells her about the woman he met in the hospital and what happened. But as he calls it unpleasant, he is surprised that Lidia does not show much emotion about the incident.
At the party, she watches as many people are excited for Giovanni being there and the success of his latest book but still shaken after seeing Tomasso in the hospital, she leaves and wanders the streets of Milan in a not-so good neighborhood where she and Giovanni grew up.
While walking around and seeing the old buildings, witnessing a young girl crying, a gang of young men fighting and watching a crow launching rockets into the sky, Giovanni returns to his apartment trying to find Lidia and is concerned.
Lidia eventually contacts Giovanni and tells him that she is at the old location where they lived, but when he goes to visit her, unlike Lidia, he has barely any sentimental feelings towards the location. As the two go to watch a dancer at a nightclub for a short discussion, both head out to an upper class party thrown by a millionaire.
As Giovanni feels comfortable hanging around the wealthy and successful people at the bar, Lidia walks around in boredom. But one man named Roberto (portrayed by Giorgio Negro) is attracted to her and wants to talk to her but she avoids him.
Meanwhile, as Giovanni walks around the party, he sees the millionaire’s daughter, Valentina Gherardini (portrayed by Monica Vitti). Both flirt with each other, play a few games and when they have the time to be alone together, Giovanni begins kissing her, not knowing that Lidia is watching them from above.
How will this evening end for the husband and wife?
“La Notte – The Criterion Collection #678″ is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio) black and white. My only comparison of this release is to the Masters of Cinema DVD release several years ago. From watching this film on Blu-ray, one can see how the contrast shows dark blacks, but whites and grays that are not only well-contrast but details are much more evident. The clarity is well done, the film looks clean and sharpness is very good.
This is the best I have seen of “La Notte” and one that does not have any issue of scratches or any significant damage considering the film’s age.
According to the Criterion Collection, “This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on an ARRISCAN film scanner from a 35 mm fine-grain, the original 35 mm camera negative has been lost. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter and flicker.
“La Notte – The Criterion Collection #678” is presented in Italian LPCM 1.0 with optional English subtitles. The monaural track is clear and sounds very good coming from the center channel. I didn’t hear any hiss or crackles during my viewing of the film.
According to the Criterion Collection, “the original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a dual-band positive preservation print made from the original 35 mm soundtrack negative. Clicks, thumps, hiss and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.
“La Notte – The Criterion Collection #678″ comes with the following special features:
- Adriano Apra and Carlo di Carlo – (26:52) Film critic Adriano Apra and film historian Carlo di Parlo discuss Michelangelo’s “La Notte”.
- Giualianna Bruno – (31:21) Giulianna Bruno, professor of Harvard University’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies discusses “La Notte” and its architecture.
- Theatrical Trailer – (3:11) The theatrical trailer for “La Notte”.
“La Notte – The Criterion Collection #678″ comes with an 18-page booklet featuring the essays “Modern Love” by Richard Brody and “My Film” by Michelangelo Antonioni.
“La Notte” is a film that is visually artistic and a story that goes beyond what you see the characters react or do on screen.
To know Antonioni’s work, for those familiar with his oeuvre especially those who have watched “L’Avventura”, “L’Eclisse” and even “Red Desert”, his films are not meant for those who are used to traditional filmmaking or storylines. To watch a Michelangelo Antonio film, there is meaning when it comes to scenery, trees, architecture that are used as symbolic meaning in relation to the characters characters.
People who want simplicity should know that Michelangelo Antonioni is not about simplicity. While different from “L’Avventura”, its similarities lies within human communication or better yet, the lack of communication. It’s about alienation, it’s about the art of cinema. Like a painting in which one can watch it and come up with a variety of interpretations, the same with an an Antonioni film, especially for his film “La Notte”.
What we do know is that Giovanni and Lidia represent a married couple who literally have grown up with each other, but as he became successful, they grew apart. She is no longer affectionate, he is often flirting with other women but is it his way to see if his wife will react or is this his personality?
Lidia represents a person who was once in love but is slowly discovering that she is no longer in love with the man she married. And possibly vice versa.
Both individuals have trouble communicating how they really feel because they know the truth is difficult. They know they loved each other once, not any more but Antonio leaves an ending for the viewer to interpret, whether the outcome is positive or negative.
A major difference from “L’Avventura” and “La Notte” during a Q&A with the Centro’s directing class (“The Architecture of Vision” by Michelangelo Antonioni) in which Antonio has said that the protagonists “communicate through this mutual sense of pity; they do not speak to one another. In ‘La Notte’, however, they do converse with each other, they communicate freely, they are fully aware of what is happening to their relationship. But the result is the same, it doesn’t differ.”
One thing I love about this film is its various scenes of symbolism. For example, during the party, Lidia is shown by Signora Gherardini a cat who just stares at a statue and asks, “Who knows what that animal is thinking?”. Lidia is very much like the cat, often observing, not judging but just watching people.
Another example is Monica Vitti’s role as Valentina. Like Jean-Luc Godard has done with his characters to voice his opinion, I believe Antonioni’s use of the sentence through Valentina of her saying to both Giovanni and Lidia, “You’ve completely exhausted me, the two of you” is more of Antonioni versus Valentina, a character who walks on the beat of her own drum.
As I watch this film over and over, I rethink about the areas that Lidia visits in her old neighborhood. The boys fighting, the crying girl, the people launching rockets. My latest viewing of this film made me feel that there is a part of her that wants to settle down, have a family and not be the socialite that her husband has become.
The scene where Lidia rides in Roberto’s car and we see the lights showing their faces, then a black vignette of their bodies. I think of that symbolism of Lidia’s thoughts of her indecisiveness as a married wife, being alone with another man who fancies her but not knowing if she should drop her defenses and go for it or respect her vows as a married woman.
Suffice to say, that is the beauty of Michelangelo Antonioni films. The chance to discover something new and different with each viewing and yes, like a painting, you can watch it as many times, and more than likely for “La Notte”, your perspective or feeling towards the characters or film will somewhat change. Also, you can’t help but sense the love of art and modern architecture through this film.
It’s important to note that the film is the uncensored version, so yes, the bath scenes featuring Jeanne Moreau is included.
As for the Blu-ray release, “La Notte” looks fantastic in HD. The film is well-contrast, blacks are nice and deep, there is much better detail and clarity than any release I have seen of the film yet. The lossless monaural soundtrack is clear, dialogue and music is clear with no sign of hiss or any crackling. And you get a few special features that delve into the film and its symbolism through architecture and surroundings. I do wish there was audio commentary included.
Overall, “La Notte” is a fantastic film that I have waited many years for the Criterion Collection to release in the U.S. and now the Blu-ray version is here. As part of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Alienation Trilogy, “La Notte” is another fine masterpiece from the Italian filmmaker with its artist cinematography, its performances by Marcello Mastroiani, Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti and another film that will no doubt make different viewers have a different opinion about the film.
And that is the efficacy of an Antonioni film…leaving it to the viewer to interpret the film, like one looking at a painting. “La Notte” is highly recommended!
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