Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Mastroianni), a distinguished writer and his beautiful wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau), visit their dying friend Tommaso Garani (Bernhard Wicki) in a hospital in Milan. Giovanni's new book, La stagione (The Season), 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 before being interrupted by the nurses.
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 dismisses the incident. 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, still shaken by Tommaso's condition. 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. 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. "One must do something", she says.
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 (Vincenzo Corbella), who seems disappointed by his wealth and exchange insincere flattery. Giovanni wanders off and meets Valentina Gherardini (Monica Vitti), the host's lively, charming daughter. As they flirt, she teaches him a game she just invented, sliding a compact across the floor and soon others gather to watch their competition. Later they see each 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 (Giorgio Negro), 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 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. Unable to acknowledge his own failure, Giovanni continues to initiate sex in a bunker on the golf course, beneath a grey morning sky.Marcello Mastroianni as Giovanni Pontano
Jeanne Moreau as Lidia
Monica Vitti as Valentina Gherardini
Bernhard Wicki as Tommaso Garani
Maria Pia Luzi as Un'invitata
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
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. Document N° 33395 signed on 2 November 1960 by Minister Renzo Helfer.Milan, Lombardia, Italy
Sesto San Giovanni, Milan, Lombardia, Italy
La Notte grossed 470 million lire in Italy during its initial release in Italy.
In his review in The New York Times, Bosley Crowther writes, "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." Crowther praises Antonioni's ability to develop his drama "with a skill that is excitingly fertile, subtle and awesomely intuitive."
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.
On the review aggregator web site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 76% positive rating among film critics based on 17 reviews, and a 91% positive audience rating. Stanley Kubrick listed La Notte as one of his top 10 favorite films.1961 Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear (Michelangelo Antonioni) Won
1961 David di Donatello Award for Best Director (Michelangelo Antonioni) Won
1962 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon for Best Director (Michelangelo Antonioni) Won
1962 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon for Best Score (Giorgio Gaslini) Won
1962 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists Silver Ribbon for Best Supporting Actress (Monica Vitti) Won
1962 Jussi Award Diploma of Merit for Foreign Actress (Jeanne Moreau) Won