Le notti bianche (1957)

Le notti bianche (White Nights)16 Le notti bianche (1957)
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Written by Suso Cecchi D’Amico and Luchino Visconti from a novel by Fyodor Dostoyevski
1957/Italy/France
Cinematografica Associati/Rank Film/Vides Cinematografica
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Mario: Now at last I can say I have been happy.

This story about the inexplicability of love sees Marcello Mastroianni in one of his first major roles.

Mario (Mastroianni) has just moved to this town and is lonely.  After a day out with new friends, he doesn’t feeling like sleeping so takes a stroll.  He spots Natalia (Maria Schell) standing on a bridge and weeping.  He wonders what her next move is and goes to talk with her.  He eventually talks her into letting him walk her home but it is a hard sell.  She reluctantly agrees to go out with him the next night but creeps out of her flat again when the coast is clear to return to the bridge.

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Mario is excited and asks his landlady to get his suit cleaned the next day.  But Natalia stands him up and hides when he sees her again.  Eventually, they talk and she reveals that she has been waiting for a man (Jean Marais) who went away without much explanation one year before and promised to meet her on the bridge.  A few brief encounters left the naive girl deeply in love with him.

Mario keeps trying to convince Natalia that she is crazy for believing that the man will ever show up.  They grow closer and she begins to care for her new friend.

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If I had a choice between Jean Marais and Marcello Mastroianni, Marcello would win every time and without hesitation!   In this movie, Mastroianni is not the Latin lover (though still devastatingly attractive) but rather a lonely and vulnerable soul.  Visconti, too, is subdued here.  The sets are simple but effective and the nighttime lighting is gorgeous. I like the romantic score as well.  Recommended.

Trailer

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