Michelangelo Antonioni

La Notte (1961)

La Notte

When writer Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Matroianni) and his wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) go to the hospital to visit their terminally ill friend Tommaso Garani (Bernhard Wicki), the experience effects them each in different ways. While Giovanni is largely unbothered by seeing his friend in such a state, he’s more bothered by the strange woman he encounters in the hallway who tries to seduce him. As for Lidia, seeing her friend in so much pain is too much for her to stand. As they drive home, Giovanni is unconcerned with how upset his wife is and she’s unconcerned about the incident with the woman in the hallway.

Later while Giovanni is at a party for his new book, Lidia goes off by herself to visit the neighborhood they lived in as newlyweds. Giovanni and Lidia have been married for ten years any love they once had has long since gone. As they continue their night by going to a nightclub and a party, the emptiness of their marriage becomes more and more apparent. During the party, Giovanni spends his time pursing Valentina (Monica Vitti). Lidia takes a moment to call the hospital to check on Tommaso, only to find out he had just died ten minutes earlier. Now even more despondent, she starts spending time with Roberto (Giorgio Negro). Neither of their pursuits works out and when Giovanni and Lidia leave the party together the next morning, they are left to face just how empty their marriage is. When Lidia reads aloud an old love letter Giovanni had written to her, he doesn’t even realize that he had written it.

La Notte is a prime example of 1960s Italian filmmaking. But that being said, it’s a style of film that simply not everyone will enjoy. I liked La Notte, which is a pleasant surprise since Antonioni has generally been kind of hit-or-miss with me. The overall moodiness and sense of emptiness really grabbed me. It’s hard for movies to convey a sense of emptiness without actually feeling empty. So many movies have tried to do that and failed miserably, but that’s exactly what La Notte does perfectly. I almost wish I hadn’t chosen this movie to write about during one of my post-a-day events because I can’t really give it the proper analysis it deserves.

L’Avventura (1960)

Quick plot summary:  Anna (Lea Massari) goes on a yachting trip with her best friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) and her fiance Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti).  At one point, they get out and spend an afternoon on a virtually deserted island.  After they take a nap, they wake up to find Anna has vanished without a trace.  When a thorough search of the island and the surrounding area fails to find her, Claudia and Sandro embark on their own search for her.  In the process, they fall in love with each other and put their missing friend on the back burner.

I’m not going to lie, this was one of the most excruciatingly boring movies I have ever seen.  I was really excited to see L’Avventura because the plot sounded pretty intriguing, but I ended up spending most of the movie fighting to stay awake.  I simply did not care at all about the relationship between Claudia and Sandro.  When a woman mysteriously vanishes while on a trip, that’s the story I’m interested in.  All I got out of this movie is that Anna had a lousy best friend and fiance since they were clearly more interested in themselves than their friend.  Wherever Anna went, I sure hope she met some better people there.  The most infuriating part about this movie is that it went on for just under two and a half hours.  Two and a half hours and we don’t even find out what happened to Anna!  I apologize if I ruined the ending for you, but I feel obligated to spare you from sitting through a whole lot of nothing happening.  Maybe I would have been more forgiving about this movie if it were, say, an hour and a half long instead.  I don’t mind experimental films, but two and a half hours?  Really?!  The one thing I did like about it is that it had some beautiful cinematography.