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La Notte

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La Notte
Italian theatrical release poster
Directed byMichelangelo Antonioni
Written by
Produced byEmanuele Cassuto
CinematographyGianni Di Venanzo
Edited byEraldo Da Roma
Music byGiorgio Gaslini
  • Nepi Film
  • Sofitedip
  • Silver Film
Distributed by
Release dates
  • 24 January 1961 (1961-01-24) (Italy)
  • 24 February 1961 (1961-02-24) (France)
Running time
122 minutes
  • Italy
  • France
Box office470 million ($752,000)

La Notte ([la ˈnɔtte]; English: "The Night") is a 1961 Italian drama film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti (with Umberto Eco appearing in a cameo).[1] Filmed on location in Milan, the film depicts a single day and night in the lives of a disillusioned novelist (Mastroianni) and his alienated wife (Moreau) as they move through various social circles. The film continues Antonioni's tradition of abandoning traditional storytelling in favor of visual composition, atmosphere, and mood.

Grossing 470 million lire and receiving acclaim for its exploration of modernist themes of isolation, La Notte received the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival (first time for Italian film), as well as the David di Donatello Award for Best Director in 1961. Although selected as the Italian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 34th Academy Awards, it was not nominated. La Notte is considered the central film of a trilogy beginning with L'Avventura (1960) and ending with L'Eclisse (1962).[2][3][4] It was one of Stanley Kubrick's 10 favorite films and received 4 votes from critics and 6 votes from directors in the 2012 Sight & Sound greatest films poll.


Giovanni Pontano, a distinguished writer, and his beautiful wife Lidia visit their dying friend Tommaso Garani in a hospital in Milan. Giovanni's new book has just been published and Tommaso praises his friend's work. They drink champagne but Tommaso is unable to hide his severe pain. Shaken by the sight of her dying friend, Lidia leaves saying she'll visit tomorrow. Giovanni stays behind and as he leaves his friend's room, a sick and uninhibited young woman attempts to seduce him, and he goes into her room and reciprocates. They are interrupted by the nurses, who slap the patient. Outside the hospital, Giovanni sees his wife crying but does not comfort her. As they drive off, he tells her about his "unpleasant" encounter with the sick woman and is surprised when Lidia is not fooled and dismisses the incident as his responsibility.

They drive to a party celebrating Giovanni's new book, which has been well received. Giovanni signs books, while his wife looks on from a distance. After a while Lidia leaves. She wanders the streets of Milan, ending up in the neighborhood where she and Giovanni lived as newlyweds. She comes across a brutal street fight which she tries to stop and later she watches rockets being set off in a field. Back at the apartment, Giovanni finally hears from Lidia and he picks her up from the old neighborhood, which seems to have little sentimental value for him. She bathes, but he makes no move on her. Later they decide to go to a nightclub, where they watch a mesmerizing and seductive performance by a female dancer and engage in small talk. "I no longer have inspirations, only recollections", Giovanni tells his wife. Lidia suggests they leave the club and attend a swanky party thrown by a millionaire businessman, "if only to do something", she says.

U.S theatrical advertisement, 1962

At the party, Giovanni socializes with the guests and appears to be in his element, while Lidia walks around in a state of boredom. They spend some time with the host, Mr. Gherardini. Giovanni wanders off and meets Valentina Gherardini, the host's lively, charming daughter. As they flirt, she teaches him a game she just invented, sliding a compact across the floor to try to land on certain of the floor's large checkerboard squares, and soon others gather to watch their competition. Later they see each other alone and Giovanni makes a pass at her, kissing her while Lidia looks on from the floor above.

Later Mr. Gherardini meets privately with Giovanni and offers him an executive position with his company, to write the firm's history. Giovanni is reluctant to accept and leaves the offer open. With Lidia's family's wealth and his earnings from publishing, he doesn't need the money. Lidia calls the hospital and learns that Tommaso died ten minutes earlier. Overwhelmed with grief, she watches from a window as the guests enjoy themselves. Later she sits at a table opposite an empty chair. Giovanni walks over and does not sit down and Lidia does not tell him about Tommaso's death. Giovanni sees Valentina and follows after her, leaving Lidia alone. Lidia walks to the band and appears to enjoy the music. A man named Roberto, who had been following her, approaches, asks her to dance and she accepts. A sudden shower sends the guests running for cover and some jump in the pool like children. As Lidia is about to jump in from the diving board, Roberto stops her, takes her to his car and they drive off. She enjoys Roberto's company and their conversation but as he's about to kiss her, Lidia turns away from him, saying "I'm sorry, I can't".

Back at the party, Giovanni searches through the crowd and finds Valentina alone, watching the rain. She tells him she's smart enough not to break up a marriage and instructs him to spend the rest of the evening with his wife. Giovanni reveals that he's going through a "crisis" common among writers but in his case it is affecting his whole life. They return to the guests, just as Lidia and Roberto return from their drive. Giovanni seems slightly annoyed by Lidia's behavior. Valentina invites Lidia to dry off in her room, where Lidia confronts her directly about her husband. As the women chat, Giovanni overhears his wife tell Valentina that she feels like dying and putting an end to the agony of her life. Noticing Giovanni, she tells him she is not a bit jealous of his playing around with Valentina. They say goodbye to Valentina and leave the party at morning's first light, with the jazz band playing for the few couples still listening.

As Giovanni and Lidia walk away across Gherardini's private golf course, they talk about the job offer that Giovanni says he'll turn down. Lidia finally tells him about Tommaso's death and recounts how Tommaso used to support her, have faith in her and urge her to study, believing she was intelligent, and offer his affections to her, but she eventually chose Giovanni because she loved him. She tells him, "I feel like dying because I no longer love you". Giovanni recognizes the failure of their marriage but tells her, "Let's try to hold onto something we're sure of. I love you. I'm sure I'm still in love with you". Lidia takes out a love letter Giovanni wrote to her just before they were married and reads it aloud. Giovanni asks who wrote it and she replies, "You did". Giovanni embraces and kisses her but she resists, saying she no longer loves him and nor does he love her. Giovanni continues to kiss and fondle Lidia in a bunker on the golf course, beneath a grey morning sky. Her resistance wanes just before the camera pans away for a view of the landscape.


  • Marcello Mastroianni as Giovanni Pontano
  • Jeanne Moreau as Lidia
  • Monica Vitti as Valentina Gherardini
  • Bernhard Wicki as Tommaso Garani
  • Maria Pia Luzi as guest
  • Rosy Mazzacurati as Resy
  • Guido A. Marsan as Fanti
  • Vincenzo Corbella as Mr. Gherardini
  • Ugo Fortunati as Cesarino
  • Gitt Magrini as Signora Gherardini
  • Giorgio Negro (actually Gaetano "Tanino" Negroni, a well-known Roman eye surgeon) as Roberto
  • Roberta Speroni as Beatrice[5]


Filming locations[edit]

  • 4 Via Lanzone, Milan (the hospital)
  • 20 Via Gustavo Fara, Milan (Giovanni and Lidia's apartment)
  • Barlassina Country Club (Gherardini villa)
  • Milan, Lombardy, Italy
  • Sesto San Giovanni, Milan, Lombardy, Italy[6]



When La Notte was first released in Italy in 1960 the Committee for the Theatrical Review of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities rated it as VM16: not suitable for children under 16. In addition, the committee imposed the following scenes be deleted: 1) the scene at the hospital with Mastroianni and the young lady must end at the moment when the two start to kiss each other; 2) the scene in the dressing room in which it is possible to see the naked breasts of Moreau; 3) the word "whore", said by one of the two ladies walking in the park, must be removed; 4) the final scene in which Mastroianni and Moreau hug each other and start rolling down the grass, the scene can resume when the panning shot shows the landscape without displaying the two actors.[7] Document N° 33395 was signed on 2 November 1960[7] by Minister Renzo Helfer.


Box office[edit]

La Notte grossed 470 million lire ($752,000) in Italy during its initial release in Italy.[8]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator web site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an 84% positive rating among film critics based on 31 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10.[9]

In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote: "As in L'Avventura, it is not the situation so much as it is the intimations of personal feelings, doubts and moods that are the substance of the film".[10] Crowther praises Antonioni's ability to develop his drama "with a skill that is excitingly fertile, subtle and awesomely intuitive".[10]

Too sensitive and subtle for apt description are his pictorial fashionings of a social atmosphere, a rarefied intellectual climate, a psychologically stultifying milieu—and his haunting evocations within them of individual symbolisms and displays of mental and emotional aberrations. Even boredom is made interesting by him. There is, for instance, a sequence in which a sudden downpour turns a listless garden party into a riot of foolish revelry, exposing the lack of stimulation before nature takes a flagellating hand. Or there's a shot of the crumpled wife leaning against a glass wall looking out into the rain that tells in a flash of all her ennui, desolation and despair.[10]

Stanley Kubrick listed La Notte as one of his top 10 favorite films.[11]


Cultural references[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The film was selected as the Italian entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 34th Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.[14]


  1. ^ "La Notte". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on 27 May 2019. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  2. ^ Gazetas, Aristides (2008). An Introduction to World Cinema. McFarland. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-7864-3907-2. Archived from the original on 10 June 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  3. ^ Wakeman, John (1988). World Film Directors: 1945–1985. H. W. Wilson. p. 65. ISBN 9780824207632. Archived from the original on 9 May 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  4. ^ Cameron, Ian Alexander; Wood, Robin (1971). Antonioni. Praeger. p. 105. ISBN 9780275571207. Archived from the original on 30 June 2014. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  5. ^ "Full cast and crew for La Notte". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on 9 October 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  6. ^ "Locations for La Notte". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on 10 January 2020. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  7. ^ a b Italia Taglia Archived 2018-06-29 at the Wayback Machine Database of the documents produced by the Committee for the Theatrical Review of The Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities, from 1944 to 2000.
  8. ^ Nicoli 2016, p. 198.
  9. ^ "La Notte". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 10 December 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2023.
  10. ^ a b c Crowther, Bosley (February 20, 1962). "Antonioni Offers 'The Night': Story of a Lost Union". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  11. ^ Ciment, Michel. "Kubrick: Biographical Notes". Visual Memory. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  12. ^ "Awards for La Notte". Internet Movie Database. Archived from the original on 31 January 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  13. ^ "Berlinale 1961: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Archived from the original on 22 March 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  14. ^ "Margaret Herrick Library". The Academy. Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  15. ^ Murray, Noel (24 August 2008). "Mad Men: "The New Girl"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 8 January 2024.
  16. ^ ECM Website Archived 2015-02-15 at the Wayback Machine


  • Arrowsmith, William (1995). Ted Perry (ed.). Antonioni: The Poet of Images. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-509270-7.
  • Brunette, Peter (1998). The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-38992-1.
  • Chatman, Seymour (1985). Antonioni: The Surface of the World. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-05341-0.
  • Nicoli, Marina (2016). The Rise and Fall of the Italian Film Industry. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1317654377.

External links[edit]