Notte, La [1961]

Continuing the "alienation trilogy" that began with L'Avventura and ended with L'Eclisse, Michelangelo Antonioni's La Notte is a visually arresting, emotionally numbing exercise in chronic ennui. The film's anesthetizing effect is entirely intentional; Antonioni's central couple (Marcello Mastroianni as a self-absorbed novelist, Jeanne Moreau as his bored and wealthy wife) wallow in their own emotional desolation, constantly drifting--and in Moreau's case, literally drifting--from one disaffected scene to the next. Antonioni's pained study of modern detachment is richly supported by his visuals, often placing his isolated characters in a harsh landscape of empty glamor and even emptier emotions. Driving the point home is Monica Vitti as Marcello's would-be mistress; in their aimless lassitude, neither can muster the necessary passion. It's all too superficial to register with any lasting dramatic impact, but La Notte remains the fascinating work of a master, redefining how movies reflect the many facets of humanity. --Jeff Shannon

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