La Notte (1961)


Second time with Antonioni after Blow Up. We really lost something when they stopped making these painted posters.

I’m sure I should be very grateful, but today this didn’t capture me like I hoped it would.

Morphs from a study of melancholy (at the publication party: “this is the ante-room of fame; we all wait here”) to one of depression; foregrounding of termination by the jealousy the couple exhibit towards the dying Tommasso’s perspicuity. Either way there is a persistent sense of central lacunae, an ex-centricity: in the city Lidia’s perambulation/dérive (“I just happened to come this way”) (on which we encounter such lingering images as an unconsolable child, peeled paintwork) spirals outwards to the margin where youths fight and set off rockets high into the sky; identified by his wife with the rockets, Giovanni’s movement is vertical, delaying at the hospital before returning to his apartment where he watches from a high window. (When they reconvene the old train tracks from their past are overgrown with foliage: centrifuge is illusive. Later Giovanni: “I no longer have any inspirations, only recollections”) At the party, however, the absence is disappointingly alienating – from the blurb I expected Journey To Italy but I got La Dolce Vita with less dynamism. I do actually just dislike parties though.

I remember Antonioni for the image of the protagonist sharing our view of the scene, foregrounded and gazing away. Both subject and object, they watch like Gormley figures waiting for nothing, as if the scene were a canvas happening in front of them not to them. Alienation under the guise of empathy. I love this; it’s very visual: a kind of emptying-out of Hopper (also in a kind of very pleasing visual plainness, particularly urban), but especially Magritte’s Not To Be Reproduced (though without the nightmarish air).

The Kurosawa rain is a nice set piece.

Where BU gradually turns the photographer’s cold apathy back on himself, its world smothering him with the irony with which he handles others, (subject and object) there seems less at stake in LN. (cf. Teorema, the neo-realists!) Some people with lots of money have vacuous lives but don’t realise it. There is philosophising (passing mention of Adorno, various unattributed quotes) but it seems pretty incidental. There is Fellini-esque paranoia about creativity in Giovanni (also reflected back at him by Valentina: “I’m happy to observe things without having to write.”): a nice passage about writing not being able to be “mechanised”, being “antiquated” in its refusal to relinquish its rôle of the solitary scribe. Much more about image and knowledge from BU, though, a Film about film. (at the party, L is put in G’s vertical position, the observer, to little effect)

The golf course scene is truly excellent. I wish they’d gone straight there, though it would have been dark.

I think it was Ebert that said that La Dolce Vita always meant something different to him when he watched it as a 20, a 40, a 60 year old. I feel like this is more likely to grow on me than that. It’s comforting to think of the blankness after death as equivalent to that before birth, but I’m not sure it’s true.

LN put me rather uncomfortably in that position of the protagonist facing away. I am watching a film but my response is somehow occluded even to me. And I feel like I am being watched.


6 June:

The superior L’Eclisse provides a more thorough guide to the codex of MA’s visual language of architecture and perspective; it’s also much more interesting. Feels like it begins the morning after LN ends.


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