La Notte is one of the indelible films of the golden age of art house cinema. Michaelangelo Antonioni’s follow-up to the more-famous L’Avventura, the movie follows Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau over the course of an evening; Moreau plays a glamorous and quietly intelligent woman married to Mastroianni, a feted writer with a wandering eye. When the couple arrives at a millionaire’s party at a villa outside Milan, Mastroianni’s eye quickly wanders to Monica Vitti, who cemented her place as the thinking man’s Cold War-era sex symbol when she starred in L’Avventura. Vitti makes quite an entrance in the film, down on all fours, playing a shuffleboard-like game with her cosmetic case, clad in a form-fitting cocktail frock of black crepe made especially for her by Mr. Valentino.
La Notte was released in 1960, and the commission for Vitti’s dress came at the very start of Mr. Valentino’s career. He had only just opened his original atelier on the Via Condotti in Rome, and the actresses roaming the lot at Cinecitta were among his earliest fans. The year La Notte arrived in cinemas was also notable as the one in which Mr. Valentino made the acquaintance of one Giancarlo Giammetti. The two could hardly have imagined the Hollywood glamour ahead.
Valentino’s dress is Vitti’s sole costume in La Notte, and it’s a look to remember. When it was shown as part of the “Valentino: Master of Couture” exhibition at London’s Somerset House in 2012, Vogue.com singled that Vitti frock out as fashion that’s endured, saying it “looks as fresh as if it was made the just the other day.” The article went on to note, that the dress from La Notte proves “above all, one thing about Valentino: In avoiding trendiness for all of his career, his handle on timelessness is his triumph.” Given that Monica Vitti is an icon for the ages, it’s only right that she gave one of her most triumphant performances in a look for the ages. Some things just never go out of style.