Not rated, but it does get pretty sexual. While there is no nudity and no one actually has sex in the movie, man they get close. There's also some things that would definitely be considered rape. The male lead is seduced by a mentally handicapped woman and instantly takes advantage of the situation, only to be stopped by her nurses. He also gets into some dicey territory when it comes to seducing his wife. The entire movie is about infidelity, so keep that in mind.
DIRECTOR: Michelangelo Antonioni
I'm leaving for Italy pretty soon and I didn't want to end my "Italian" movie streak without a tried-and-true Italian movie to close up shop. I'm writing this way too late at night. I just wrote a whole blog about Jurassic World: Dominion, so please excuse the hard right that my brain is going to take to try to write about this movie that requires one's complete attention, despite a gruelingly slow pace. I have to say, I'm back and forth about Antonioni. For a guy who has completely come around on Fellini, I am now more lost than ever when it comes to Antonioni. I keep grasping so tightly to Blow-Up because that film is just the next level. But I avoided rewatching L'Avventura because I remember not having that good a time watching it the last two times I gave it a shot. (I will be watching it in the fairly near future. After all, I now own it and should probably watch my copy of it.)
But I have a pretty weird take on the film. I think I might have to watch this movie two or three more times to really get all of the themes and ideas within this movie, but I do want to go with some gut reactions. Antonioni is a real bummer sometimes, you know? I'm saying that from a New Wave / 1961 perspective. It's some real clinical writing that I'm doing right now. For those who know my tastes, which is mostly my students, I would like to remind you that I'm into bummer stuff. This is not a recent thing. I don't know what it is about bummer endings that really get me, but they do. All of La Notte is a huge bummer. Everyone in this movie, with the exception of the dying man in the hospital, is a huge turd. There are greater and lesser turds, but they are all turds. We're supposed to judge this life of the bourgeoisie all the way. Even though Antonioni himself is an intellectual, this movie throws stones at intellectual culture. While almost everyone in the story is some degree of intellectual, they all seem wildly unhappy with where their lifestyle choices has led them. I refuse to list because it is straight up bad writing, but I do want to use the protagonists of the story as my exhibits A and B.
Giovanni is the one we are meant to throw stones at. Maybe I'm being harsher on him because I'm a big fan of monogamy, both in life and in my storytelling (which makes no sense with my affinity for Woody Allen films). But Giovanni is this guy who actively chases sex. Considering that the film almost follows the neoclassical precepts about unity of time, this is meant to be a typical day for this couple. Yes, they lose a friend to...something. But everything else about the day is meant to show how this couple leads their lives. Giovanni cheats. Lidia...might be cheating. I'm still not quite sure what she does and how sexually active she is. But Giovanni actively hunts down women for sexual relations. There's a conquest element about it all. It's why he is okay with the seduction by the mental patient because it seems to be another notch on his belt. He goes after a 22-year-old because he in no way is invested in his wife. He seems to justify his actions because she is vocally judgment-free about his indiscretions. But they both seem miserable. As much as this is a party about debauchery and really odd statue seductions (for those who have seen the movie, I'm talking about the Pan statue), everyone seems dead inside. I'm going to take a turn from this, don't worry. I'm not just writing about the obvious.
It's only when Lidia confesses that she no longer loves her husband that Giovanni tries to seduce her. It's really pathetic and that's what Antonioni is shooting for. Again, I'm not here to state the obvious, despite the fact that I've dedicated who-knows-how-much-digital-space to the obvious. But it just becomes this sense of Giovanni being afraid of losing. Nothing counts if he can't keep his wife on the hook. I still state that the end is sexual assault, but I do want to go into the fragile territory about whether there was any questionable consent in that moment. She avoids being kissed, but she does nothing to remove him from her. I think Antonioni leaves it ambiguous on purpose. After all, there's not much in the film that is necessarily overt. He wants us to make conclusions about a lot of things in the movie.
But here's the odd part. I had to question who I was while watching this movie. Antonioni builds this world of unfaithful misery. I don't know if this comes to a shock to anyone, but this blog is a cry for help from a guy who desperately wants to be an author. I blame a large family and a constant string of newborns-to-three-year-olds from giving me any time to write anything of substance. I can only really write in long-form during the summers as a teacher (note that my momentum is way stronger than it is during the school year). But as depressing as La Notte paints the world of the intellectual, there's something still appealing about it. I mean, I love my life. I love my life and I wouldn't trade it in for anything. But there are elements of envy that I see when I watch a movie like La Notte. That jealousy comes from the idea that I could live Giovanni's life better than he could. I could see going to nightclubs, having drinks with other intellectuals. I could see having self-imposed deadlines and heavy discussions. There's one thing that Giovanni has that I could never shed. Because he has created this bleak world for himself, he never really has imposter syndrome. That dude, for all of his misery, is confident as crap. Maybe he deserves it, maybe he doesn't. It is implied that Giovanni's book is actually that good. Antonioni might be commenting on the role of the artist and the self-destructive habits that come from people devoted to art, but it is still kind of sexy in its own way.
It's really funny that I think that way too. The older I get, the more I'm convinced that I'm an introvert. It's why I stay up so late writing. It's quiet in the house right now. I'm going to be exhausted when my little ones wake me up tomorrow night. The film ends with the married couple walking on the sprawling lawns of the super rich, discussing how their marriage is basically falling apart. The eponymous night has passed and the day is filled with the painful dawn. And yet, they're not exhausted. They're our age and they aren't the least bit tired. Lidia asks to avoid going home after partying all night and I can't even imagine living that life. As envious as I am to write and talk art and philosophy, the lifestyle has to be murder. I've probably been poisoned by the suburbs my entire life. But if I could cut out the party that Giovanni and Lidia go to, I wouldn't hate being the guy in the black suit chatting up the role that art plays on the soul. Yeah, their lives suck. But it doesn't mean that I don't want just a piece of that.
(To be absolutely clear, it's not the adultery part. You get that right? He's a huge turd. I just want to write books and chat with smart folks.)
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.