First viewing here and Le Notti Bianche is thoroughly impressive- immediately goes near the top of the list of the all-time underrated films (not anywhere to be found on the TSPDT top 1000—and Visconti has a whopping 8 films on the list).
A Dostoevsky adaptation (White Nights) – certainly going to remind cinephiles of David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945), and then of course Before Sunrise from Linklater decades later and Kiarostami’s Certified Copy– a man and woman walking and talking in a tight time frame (this is three straight nights) in a European city (Venice here)
Silver Lion winner
It’s clear that at least up through 1957 (and perhaps beyond) Visconti is going toe to toe with Rossellini and Fellini. For example, Fellini in 1954 (Visconti’s Senso) made La Strada and then here in 1957 we had Nights of the Cabiria from Fellini and this here—oddly enough both Italian auteurs getting a boost from Nino Rota who does the superb musical score here.
Unlike the Neo-realism mount-rushmore film La Terra Trema which used location shooting as a character in the film, here, Visconti created an entire city in the of Cinecitta studios. It is meticulously designed and reminds me a bit of Caligari (I mean every puddle and broken window is purposeful), how Cuaron rebuilt streets for Roma and how Coppola moved from the jungle to controlling everything inside for the beautiful One From the Heart.
Artificial street signs to create a painting – a stunner at 4 minutes with Marcello Mastroianni (a big early landmark film for him) in the middle of the street at night.
With Mastroianni and Maria Schell—two lovers in a frame like Antonioni would go on to master- I think this and Senso, the blocking and arrangement of the two, clearly had an influence on Antonioni
At 30 minutes we get a great transition to a flashback without cutting, Visconti turns the camera and we’re in a flashback
Absolutely showing off at 32 minutes with the 3 mirrors in one shot- haha
It is Visconti- so it is not only operatic (or operatic realism) but opera in the text
Great framing with the big column blocking the frame at 40 minutes
A swinging door at 72 minutes catching the two in the frame in the door after dancing- spectacular
Another at 76 and 78 minutes – he’s chasing her and Visconti’s camera catches her in brilliant frames—really incredible mise-en-scene work
At 93 minutes when the two are in the boat another perfect frame- low angle with the bum in the bottom right corner
At 97 minutes she spots her former lover— a long shot and incredible frame. Devastating turn of events for Marcello and then at 99 minutes we get the reverse shot with him now in the deep background
The final shot- the dog, the Esso sign, the alley—a very painterly final frame that matches the opening