Friday, February 07, 2003

Moper's Ball: Jeanne Moreau and Marcello Mastroiani in Antonioni's La Notte

Diary fragment from some years past:

I saw Antonioni's La Notte the other night at the Nickleodeon. It was like watching ice melt. You heard a lot of yawns, impatient shuffling in seats. The more generous viewers -- the intellectuals, I suppose, who wanted to be able to say they loved it -- seized on every possible laugh. One guy near me dozed off and I very nearly joined him.

Like L'Avventura, La Notte proceeds very much in "real time," and it has a daring, deliberate boredom to it. Life's gradual procession is deceptive; the real turmoil, the real cataclysms, are interior or psychological -- that's where the violence and action is. Any given minute from a person's life provides a DNA reading on the quality of that life. Yet so often when I watch one of his [Antonioni]movies I find myself wishing for a car wreck or a slap or a shout or a scream of anguish; everything is so cool, so "lifelike"; you wish for the liberation of purely visual violence.

There is that quote of Hitchcock's -- what is drama but life with the dull parts cut out? For Antonioni, the drama is in the dull parts. But in his best films, like L'Avventura or The Passenger, a sense of meaning and purpose bubbles up to the surface. And they are interesting. I didn't much like La Notte because of the ending, where Marcello and Moreau have this extended dialogue about their lives; it looked tacked on -- the director's way of rewarding the audience for its Herculean patience. It had some great "master filmmaker" stuff in it -- brilliantly composed shots and so forth. But that didn't cut it with me. All I noticed was the weight, the heaviness.

I didn't much like Blow Up either -- although it did put some good ideas in the heads of De Palma and Coppola.

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