This psychologically acute, visually striking modernist work was director Michelangelo Antonioni’s follow-up to the epochal L’avventura. Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau star as a novelist and his frustrated wife, who, over the course of one night, confront their alienation from each other and the achingly empty bourgeois Milan circles in which they travel. Antonioni’s muse Monica Vitti smolders as an industrialist’s tempting daughter. Moodily sensual cinematography and subtly expressive performances make La note an indelible illustration of romantic and social deterioration.
A long time coming (L’Eclisse was released by Criterion 8 years ago, L’Avventurra 4 years before that) Criterion finally releases Michelangelo Antonioni’s La notte on Blu-ray in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this dual-layer disc. The high-definition transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.
This is an absolute stunner of a transfer: clean, natural, sharp, brilliant contrast, absolutely filmic in look. Detail levels are exceptional, even in long shots of the various buildings that grace their way through the film. Artifacts are not an issue, no edge halos are present, no noise, and no evidence of overzealous cleaning. Film grain is fine but present and rendered naturally. Black levels are particularly impressive with no signs of crushing.
The source materials are in decent shape yet show signs of age; there are faint tram lines in places, a few bits of debris, and some obvious pulsating, but none of it is detrimental. The original negative is lost so a master positive was what was used, and theoretically the negative would have allowed for a sharper image, but it’s not something I’m too concerned over. As it is it looks pretty phenomenal.
The film’s audio is presented in linear 1.0 PCM mono. Like a lot of Italian films of the time most of the audio was dubbed in post-production, including dialogue, so there is a slightly detached feel to the audio, though I guess it’s suiting to the film. Sound effects were also dubbed in, part of the film’s style, allowing certain sounds to take center attention throughout the film, but again they come off fairly artificial. Because of this the track is pretty flat and one-note. This is all inherent in the source, of course, and not an issue with the transfer itself. In the end it’s a clean, distortion free presentation.
We get a couple of strong items on this release but considering the film’s stature and the stature of its director this edition is disappointingly slim.
First is an interview with Adriano Aprà and Carlo di Carlo, a 27-minute piece where the two (well, Aprà primarily) talk about the film’s visual language and various set pieces, and how it’s ultimately an abstract film, an essay on “the state of emotions” in the contemporary world. They cover his use of sound, his use of architecture and its significance, and talks about his use of the film’s two big stars, who are purposely made to give “lifeless” performances (not surprisingly neither Moreau nor Mastroianni cared for the film.) Though I probably would have preferred a commentary the interviews are a concise examination of the film.
Criterion then expands on the subject of the film’s use of architecture with their interview with Harvard professor Giuliana Bruno. In it she talks about the contrasting of old style architecture versus newer buildings, the use of geometric lines in framing and the fascinating compositions made up using large windows in buildings, which can duplicate actors or make them look like a ghostly image in a scene. She also explains how the use of walls, space, and windows are used to give a sense of the characters, their thoughts, and feelings. At 31-minutes it’s surprisingly engaging and straight forward and is a great analytical inclusion.
The disc then closes with a theatrical trailer, that presents the film as sexier and more exciting than it actually is.
Richard Brody delivers a good essay on the film in the included booklet, summing up the features found on the disc by covering the film’s visual style and use of architecture. Criterion also includes a reprint of a short 1961 article by Antonioni about the film and its positive reception, which he’s pretty sure wouldn’t have been the case 5 years previously. It’s a slim booklet for a fairly slim release but it’s an excellent read.
The two big supplements we get are both rather good scholarly features that do help in unraveling the film, at least somewhat (even Aprà admits he doesn’t understand everything) but it still feels incredibly slim, barely breaking the one-hour point.
Though the release seems a bit slim in supplements the video transfer is amazing.