Disc Jockey: ‘La Notte’ offers more than just bored, hot Europeans

Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni play a couple who've fallen out of love in "La Notte." Credit: The Criterion Collection
Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni play a couple who’ve fallen out of love in “La Notte.”
Credit: The Criterion Collection

‘La Notte’
Criterion Collection
$39.95

Bored, attractive, well-dressed Europeans were all over screens in the early 1960s, some of them in “La Dolce Vita” and “Last Years at Marienbad,” but most of them in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. Starting with “L’Avventura,” the Italian filmmaker made what was loosely called “the trilogy of alienation.” (Although if we’re being sticklers, it’s really a quadrilogy, including 1964’s “Red Desert,” as well as 1961′s “La Notte” and 1962′s “The Eclipse.”) In these, pretty actors — Monica Vitti, who was in all of them, plus Alain Delon and Gabriele Ferzetti — wandered underpopulated cities, weighed down by idle wealth. His is a style easily lampooned, or worse: Pauline Kael loved “L’Avventura,” but detested its follow-up, “La Notte,” in which she took umbrage with people being bored at all when there’s so much in life worth loving.

So much is made of the dehumanization in Antonioni’s films that it’s easy to forget they’re about the battle between emotion and the forces that extinguish emotions. “La Notte” is a modernist masterwork about how modern life is rubbish, but it’s also a grim relationship film about desiccated love. Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau play a couple. He’s an esteemed novelist who has lost passion for work, and much else. He barely notices when, after a party for his latest book, she wanders off, aimlessly strolling to the outskirts of Milan, where new money has yet to raze decaying buildings and patches of wasteland. The two attempt a date night, but only wind up at a party where they hook up (or try to) with others, including the hotcha, self-aware daughter of an industrialist (Vitti).

There’s another movie going on in “La Notte,” a more spirited one in which Mastroianni and Moreau’s characters are younger and madly in love. We only get glimpses of this, in them revisiting places they used to frequent or with a love letter he once wrote her that he can no longer ID as his own. Watching it is like watching “Before Midnight,” but not “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” and wondering what Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke ever saw in eachother. (The major difference is at least Delpy and Hawke talk.) Their love is at this point purely abstract; what made them fall for eachother is a forgotten dream.

The stars allegedly hated making “La Notte,” where they’re called on to do very little but stand and look disaffected. But they’ve rarely been more affecting. Mastroianni has disappeared so deeply inside himself he can barely get excited over macking on Monica Vitti. And Moreau, at this point in her career largely used as an ice queen, very carefully radiates despair. While barely moving or speaking, she gives possibly her most human performance.

Of course, this is the height of “Antoniennui,” meaning that no one much moves or speaks or seems to have much on their mind. But he conveys feeling through artificial means. Antonioni carefully places his actors so they’re separated by boundaries, or stuck in place. (One shot has them standing still next to two trees that mirror their positions.) The use of reflecting windows further suggests the past as a ghost, albeit one haunting more by suggestion. It’s not just the 1960s and changing times and the bourgeois life that hold our heroes back. This is a portrait of a couple who’ve stayed together too long to start over again, who failed to call it quits at the right time and now lack energy. As with most of his other films, Antonioni is trying to film the intangible — emotions and neuroses that don’t particularly lend themselves to drama or even, necessarily, cinema. But he finds a way to capture them anyway.

Also out:

‘White House Down’
As with “Deep Impact” vs. “Armageddon,” “Antz” vs. “A Bug’s Life” or “No Strings Attached” vs. “Friends With Benefits,” America was stuck with a decision: Which of the two same films to make a hit and which to make less of a hit? Of the dueling “’Die Hard’ in the White House” pictures this year, the lower-rent “Olympus Has Fallen” won, while the super-budgeted “White House Down” actually tanked. We won’t make great claims for it, but the latest from ensemble disaster maven Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”) is cheerfully ridiculous, and has Channing Tatum as its deadpan John McLane. May it live long on the small screen.

‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: The Extended Edition’
If you thought it was ridiculous that it took Peter Jackson 169 minutes to tell a third of a slender fantasy novel for kids, then guess what? Now it’s 13 minutes longer. Perhaps there’s more of the sick hedgehog who has to be resuscitated?

‘Mad Men: Season Six’
Don Draper et al. finds their way into the late 1960s, making room for such historical events as the MLK and RFK assassinations, plus a cameo from “Planet of the Apes.”

‘Passion’
Brian De Palma makes his first “Brian De Palma” film in ages — that is to say, a delightfully twisty, trashy thriller with split screen and zooms. Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace duke it out (and sometimes make out) in the cut-throat world of advertising.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.