Has any director ever been as adept at exploring the spaces that exist between people as Michelangelo Antonioni? His 1961 film, La Notte, is the story of a married couple slowly drifting apart in Milan, when their visit to a hospitalised friend proves to be the catalyst that opens up long-hidden fissures in their relationship.
The couple are played by Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau, and both actors are quietly mesmerising as they embark upon a 24-hour odyssey through the city – a city that ultimately becomes a key character in itself, as Antonioni and his extraordinary cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo brilliantly frame the characters against their environment (the use of reflections in windows and mirrors is astonishing).
Of course, this very distinctive director is an acquired taste, and many may feel suffocated or even bored by the deliberate pacing and creeping sense of ennui, but La Notte is a visually ravishing and deeply moving masterpiece, and patient viewers will be amply rewarded by a wonderful ending. [Philip Concannon]