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    La Notte Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Criterion

    Oct 23 2013 01:31 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    After his haunting if enigmatic L’avventura won international acclaim, director Michelangelo Antonioni next tackled La Notte, but the results were far more pedestrian and banal. Shot with the maestro’s patented mesmerizing visuals in a languid style and with minimal dialogue, La Notte’s look at a deteriorating marriage between two individuals who have pretty much stopped caring about anything in their world just never works up enough heat to inspire much interest. The director paints with his camera, but the results won't speak to all viewers.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Criterion
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    • Audio: Other
    • Subtitles: English
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 2 Hr. 02 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: keep case
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 10/29/2013
    • MSRP: $39.95

    The Production Rating: 2.5/5

    Celebrated author Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni) and his wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) are devastated that their dear friend Tomasso (Bernhard Wicki) is dying of cancer in a hospital. But his real death is also a symbol for their own feelings about their dying relationship: they’re apart even when they’re together: at a book party celebrating Giovanni’s latest release, Lidia wanders off into the main streets and outlying areas of Milan alone. That night, an unusual contortionist at a nightclub bores both of them, and they go their separate ways later that evening at a party thrown by publisher Gerardini (Vincenzo Corbella) whose daughter Valentina (Monica Vitti) makes a play for Giovanni.

    Covering something less than a day in the lives of these two inert people, the screenplay by Michelangelo Antonioni, Ernio Flaiano and Tonino Guerra is little to do about nothing in terms of plot or characterization. Antonioni, completely enamored of placing his stiff, lifeless characters against interesting architectural backdrops or in the famous climactic sequence paralleling them with two trees on an estate, doesn’t bother to give his two protagonists any kind of interesting byplay with their words (especially since she’s considering divorce; it just comes out of the blue in the final sequence). We’ve watched them for two hours dally with others: he with a nymphomaniac (Maria Pia Luzi) at the hospital and later with Monica Vitti’s Valentina and she with several men on the street and later Roberto (Giorno Negro) at the house party, none of which actually end up amounting to anything. Without interesting personalities or any kind of conflict in the film’s makeup, it’s simply a long walk to nowhere though one does look at admiration at the director’s superb compositions: the multi-tiered architecture of Milan finds the director shooting from all angles and at reflections in glass to always interesting compositional effect. But if the film’s theme is the tragedy of men and women in modern society to connect on any deeper level than the surface of his glorious buildings, it’s a thin strand on which to build a film that runs more than two hours.

    Because their characters are fairly dead inside, we only see glimmers of life occasionally from stars Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroianni. She has her most effervescent moment watching some young men shooting off rockets on the outskirts of Milan, thrilled to be seeing something so alive and vital especially after just coming from a hospital room where death is hovering. Mastroianni’s encounter with the mentally ill hospital nympho is almost laughable: this big man experienced with women (we later find out from his wife) standing like a sodden tree while she gropes and smothers him with her attraction. He later does spring to life with Monica Vitti’s life-affirming Valentina who’s someone who seems to want to live spontaneously. But it doesn’t take long for her attraction to him to be stifled by his rather listless approach to lovemaking. Bernhard Wicki as the dying Tomasso actually offers the best performance in the movie showing his fight for life and the love of simple pleasures like a glass of champagne that his two friends can’t seem to muster even for him in his last conscious moments.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film is presented in its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very good throughout, and contrast has been dialed in to perfection offering the viewer a very striking black and white picture. Grayscale might not plumb the very depths of black, but shadow detail is often quite impressive in this transfer. The English subtitles are printed in white and are easy to read. The film has been divided into 15 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5

    The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) sound mix is very typical of its day. The film was completely post synched, so the dialogue and sound effects sound somewhat arid and lifeless (much like the two protagonists). The music score by Giorgio Gaslini has an odd quirkiness about it and then segues to smooth jazz for the nightclub and house party sequences. There is soft to moderate hiss present through much of the film that becomes noticeable during quieter moments.

    Special Features: 3/5

    Adriano Aprà/Carlo di Carlo Interview (26:52, HD): two Italian film critics offer a critical analysis of Antonioni’s themes and techniques for this movie. This was recorded in 2012.

    Giuliana Bruno Interview (31:21, HD): the Harvard arts professor discusses in detail the differing Milan architecture as a symbol of the various characters’ lives, hopes, and destinies.

    Theatrical Trailer (3:11, HD)

    Seventeen-Page Booklet: contains the cast and crew lists, a selection of movie stills, movie writer Richard Brody’s adulatory essay on the film, and director Michelangelo Antonioni’s own thoughts about the movie.

    Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

    Overall Rating: 3/5

    Like many of Michelangelo Antonioni’s works, La Notte is a film of tone and mood, and its effectiveness for the individual viewer is something only that viewer can expound. The video transfer is delectable and the bonuses feature individuals who find the depths in the master’s work that others might not be able to see as readily.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    2 Comments

    Photo
    Frank Bidart
    Oct 24 2013 11:04 PM
    Matt just doesn't "get" La Notte, and it's sad he chose to review it. Let me say flat out that I think it's one of the greatest films ever made. It's now available in Blu-ray in a staggeringly beautiful print. The film now once again has the visual subtlety that it had when I first saw it in Paris in 1961. This is one of the great meditations on love, a modernist masterpiece. Frank Bidart
      • bujaki likes this
    Photo
    Moe Dickstein
    Oct 25 2013 12:23 AM
    Matt reviews all Criterion product, he didn't "choose" the film.