Marcello Mastroianni, as a lonely city transplant, and Maria Schell, as a sheltered girl haunted by a lover’s promise, meet by chance on a canal bridge and begin a tentative romance that quickly entangles them in a web of longing and self-delusion. Luchino Visconti’s Le notti bianche, an exquisite adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “White Nights,” translates this romantic, shattering tale of two restless souls into a ravishing black-and-white dream. —The Criterion Collection
As Martin Scorsese notes in My Voyage to Italy, no 20th Century film-maker can lay claim to the unique disposition of Count Don Luchino Visconti di Modrone, the final heir to one of Europe’s oldest aristocratic families. For much of his youth, Visconti exulted in the privileges of his lifestyle. His house was a frequent retreat for the likes of Arturo Toscanini, Gabrielle d’Annunzio and Giacomo Puccini. His lifelong engagement in theatre and opera was imbibed from an early age along with brief passions such as raising horses and maintaining stables. It wasn’t long before Visconti began questioning the limitations of his lifestyle. Inspired by his intellectual yearnings, Visconti wandered away from his comfortable shelter and visited Paris. This would be a turning point in his life. Through his friendship with Coco Chanel, Visconti met French director Jean Renoir. He served as assistant director on some of Renoir’s best films from the 30s, including Toni, Partie de campagne and The Lower… read more
It was incredibly frustrating seeing WHITE NIGHTS in a theater in its current digitally distributed form. You could tell how carefully it was crafted with beautiful sets and composition and lighting but, like a photocopy of an Ansel Adams photograph, what I saw was only an indicator of how stunning the actual film probably is.
I'm really a lover of all Visconti's work but, for me, this is undoubtedly the greatest work of him and the best Italian film
Maria Schell and Marcello Mastroianni in Luchino Visconti's White Nights (1957).