The Film (5/5)
Michelangelo Antonioni had been making feature films for just about a decade when his film L'aaventura made him the arthouse equivalent to a household name at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. L'aaventura had similarities to some of Antonioni's prior features, but it more or less in the end broke from his prior work, and went in an all new direction, both thematically and stylistically.
L'aaventura would be the first entry in what would become known as Antonioni's Alienation Trilogy , the third entry would be the later L'Eclisse, while the second part, and the subject of this review would be La Notte. La Notte stars Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni as Lidia and Giovanni Pontano. Giovanni is a successful writer who is just celebrating the success of his latest novel, Lidia is his wife. The film follows them for one day, and one night as they visit the hospital bedside of a dying friend, go about their lives, and attend a pair of parties that in the end signify their fading relationship.
Antonioni in his post-1960's work tends to be a very detached filmmaker (at least in the work I've seen). His camera tends to remain removed from the subjects, while at the same time shooting them with interesting spacial dynamics. In this trilogy of films, for example he tends to leave a lot of the frame empty around the charters, I have always felt this signifies the emptiness and loneliness in these peoples lives. This combined with the fact that Antonioni tends to focus on upper crust characters who seemingly have it all, but are emotionally bereft.
We, of course, get a power trio of performances in the film led by the wonderful Jeanne Moreau (Elevator to the Gallows, Jules and Jim) and Marcello Mastroianni. (La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2) The pair of them seemingly inhabit their characters, with all their depth, emotions, and at times lack thereof. We also get Antonioni's muse Monica Vitti as party guest Valentina, who ends up getting Giovanni's heart pumping in a way he has not felt in some time.
La Notte is one of Antonioni's greatest 60's work, and a film by an artist who is just hitting his stride. This coupled with a group of performances by some of the greatest actors of the era, make it one of the most powerful and striking films of the era.
Criterion has presented Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte in an absolutely stunning 1:85:1 MPEG-4 AVC Encoded transfer preserving the films original aspect ratio. First things first, this disc blows the DVD from Fox Lorber from a decade ago completely out of the water. That is simply a foregone conclusion, since those French New Wave Fox Lorber disc were pretty terrible. The transfer itself has excellent detail throughout the film, contrast is excellent throughout, and there is a healthy grain structure at play. There are a few bits nicks and scratches that couldn't be removed, but overall this is the best La Notte has looked on home video.
Criterion presents La Notte with an Italian LPCM 1.0 Mono track that is of similar quality to the video. The dialogue comes through nice and clear, as does the films score. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the track.
Criterion have put together a nice package for their release of La Notte. The disc kicks off with an interview with a pair of film critics Adriano Apra and Carlo di Carlo. They discuss La Notte at length, from the structure to symbolism and more. We also get a 32 minute interview with Giuliana Bruno a Harvard Film Professor who discusses the film's style. The disc is rounded off by the film's trailer. We also get a booklet of liner notes which includes an essay by Antonioni himself.
The second film of Antonioni's Alientation Trilogy, and one of his finest. Criterion brings La Notte to Blu-ray with a fantastic A/V restoration and a nice supplemental package. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.