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The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of

Saturday, January 15, 2000
La Notte
Michelangelo Antonioni Italy/France, 1960

(The Night). Antonioni's characters all are wanderers in a strange land: in Eclipse, Alain Delon in love will say, "I feel like I'm in a foreign country." In La Notte that foreign territory is a marriage of ten years being questioned for the first time. Marcello Mastroianni, a novelist who feels written out, and Jeanne Moreau, his disenchanted wife, while visiting a dying friend realize that there is little left between them. The rest of the night is spent in escape and disillusionment, played out against Antonioni's rigorous sense of place and architecture. ("Jeanne Moreau's walk through Milan is a walk through her own life"-Penelope Huston). It is not often recognized that Antonioni is a consummate director of emotions, since what he deals with is alienation and its spaces; but in La Notte, the marvelous Moreau begins the retreat to Monica Vitti's Red Desert island, and Mastroianni hones his character, the artist weakened by many temptations to sell out, to Antonioni's particular, un-Fellini-like ambience. "An ambiguous and desolate masterpiece" (Peter Cowie). (JB)

• Written by Antonioni, Ennio Flajano, Antonio Guerra. Photographed by Gianni Di Venanzo. With Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, Monica Vitti, Bernhard Wicki. (121 mins, In Italian with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm, Permission New Yorker Films)