A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Sunday, August 10, 2003


La Notte, a 1961 film by Michelangelo Antonioni, starring Jeanne Moreau (who I have now seen act in three different languages) and Marcelo Mastroianni. Translated as The Night, the film takes place (obviously enough) largely over the course of one night, though we get a build-up of the preceding days to lay some groundwork. Essentially, we have an intellectual writer who feels lost in a desert devoid of inspiration, and his wife, who is living an inner life by his side and is finding she has her own needs to explore. This night is the night it all breaks down. Yet, it's not a breakdown of grand action or histrionics, but in Antonioni style, a slow disintegration. What kept me riveted to this quiet character piece was an understated surreality. The couple does a lot of wandering--together and apart--and everywhere they go they encounter something to see--from the deranged nymphomaniac in the hospital to the bombed out shell of a building (complete with crying child and broken clock), the backlot fist fight to the sensual acrobatics of a nightclub dancer, and finally to a party full of well-to-do, aimless people. At one point early on, when Moreau reacts to Mastroianni's encounter with the aforementioned nympho, she makes a comment that this could be his next book, a story about the living and the dead. This, in many ways, seems to be a key line that applies throughout the film, and depending on who you choose to interpret as being the living beings and the deceased (all metaphorical, of course--The Sixth Sense this is not), it colors your perception of the action. In the first instance, is Mastroianni dead for his inability to influence the action, and the nympho alive in her madness? Or is she dead, confined to her hospital hell, trying to grab onto a living being to get out? (Throughout the film, people seem drawn to our main characters. Like when Moreau breaks up the fist fight, and the winning pugilist follows her lasciviously.) Is the journey overall one through a voyeuristic purgatory, of two spirits trying to decide where they belong? Would Moreau be at home in the decaying slum? Is the opulent estate where the party is being held really another circle in Dante's construction? When Mastroianni is offered a job at the rich benefactor's firm, so he can finally be free and not live off his wife's money, is he really being released from life to join the unfeeling masses, or is he being released from his dead marriage to find himself as a man? Is Moreau finding the strength to live in dissolving the union? Can she even get out? At one point, she runs away with a potential lover, but returns to the party, unable to go through with it. In the end, I would likely argue that she is the one trying to live, when her husband throws himself on her, refusing to let her go--but can we really say, in this world of ambiguity, on which side freedom lies? Perhaps she is a ghost finally accepting the spirit world and attempting to leave for her place in it, and Mastroianni is the loved one that can't let her go. I suppose I could make a decision, but the heart of the piece seems to be in having the freedom to endlessly question, to watch these two amazing actors and let them cast a different spell every time. (I believe I am falling for Moreau. It's impossible to take your eyes off her in La Notte. There is a sadness to her face, a depth to her eyes, that makes it all the more heartwarming when she has the occasional outburst of laughter. As the more inquisitive explorer of the pair, too, she ends up being the stand-in for the viewer.)

l to r: Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti, unidentified, Marcello Mastroianni, Michelangelo Antonioni

Current Soundtrack: Mya, Moodring


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