Sunday, January 02, 2011

LA NOTTE (1961)

With this film under my belt, I have now seen all three of the movies in the loose trilogy by Michelangelo Antonioni which are variously referred to as the "Alienation" films or the "Emptiness" films, or the "Doomed Relationships" trilogy, or as IMDb trivia has it, the "Incomunicabiliy" trilogy--and speaking of the difficulty of communication, I'm pretty sure that should be "incommunicability." The first, L'AVVENTURA, is about a young woman who vanishes on a boat trip; what starts out as a sort of detective story as her lover and friend search for her becomes a tale of two people attracted to each other but also bored by each other, and by life. The third, L'ECLISSE (Eclipse), centers on a bored woman who initiates an affair with an attractive stockbroker, only to be bored by him, and by life. LA NOTTE follows a husband and wife through the course of a day and night during which they realize they are, yes, bored with each other and with life. Despite my flippant descriptions, I like these movies, especially the way they look, and think they are all worthy film buff material. But it doesn't seem like Antonioni got very far in developing his thesis, and in fact I think it's the first one that is the richest viewing experience, though L'ECLISSE gets a lot of critical attention for its final long sequence of city street life.

This one has the best acting of the three, probably because the characters are better written. Marcello Mastroianni is a writer, married to Jeanne Moreau (both pictured above). We see the pair visiting an older writer (whom Moreau may have had an affair with in the past), dying in a hospital room, and Mastroianni has an encounter with a woman who pulls him into a room, strips naked, and tries to seduce him, but it turns out she's a mental case. That evening, at a book party, a bored Moreau leaves, wanders the stark city streets, and stops a fist fight. The two go to a club and watch a rather sexy dance/strip number. Later they attend a cocktail party at a large, modern suburban house, all stark white walls and glass; he flirts with Monica Vitti (pictured at right--and honestly, who wouldn't flirt with her?), she leaves for a drive with a young playboy (Giorgio Negro), but both wind up at dawn together in a grassy field. She reads him an old love letter of his, he doesn't recognize it, and they end the film rolling around together in the dirt, in a prelude to a joyless sex act. As in all three films, it is the photography of architecture, and of people framed oddly against buildings and landscapes, that keeps the viewer most interested. But the characters, being better developed than in the other two films, are fairly interesting, even if we never really know what makes them tick, or even really why they feel alienated from each other and their surroundings (the plight of the thinking modern person, I suppose). There are certainly hints: Mastroianni's new book is called The Sleepwalkers; at one point he tells Moreau, "I no longer have inspirations, only recollections"; a discussion topic at the party, among the very well-to-do guests, is about what does or doesn't have lasting value. Plotwise, these threads never come together, but still by the end, you do come away with an almost physical feeling of alienation, or emptiness, or of the sadness of incommunicability. [DVD]

1 comment:

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