Monica Vitti, ‘Queen of Italian Cinema,’ Dies at 90

Monica Vitti, whose chilling sensuality and intellectual approach to her roles animated the series of 1960s cinema masterpieces directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, including the film “L’Avventura” ” controversially, passed away Wednesday in Rome. She was 90.

Her death was announced by former politician and film director Walter Veltroni. He did not specify the cause, but said she had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for many years.

In a news bulletinDario Franceschini, Italian Culture Minister, wrote, “Farewell to the queen of Italian cinema.”

A well-trained actress, Miss Vitti was already a famous theater star in Italy in 1957 when she met Antonioni, who later became her companion for a decade, as well as she becomes his muse and changes his ego.

Vitti emerged on the international scene as all eyes were on Europe, where a new generation of visionary filmmakers are remaking the landscape, particularly in France and Italy. Her shrewd, patriarchal features and cool demeanor created a visual and stylistic contrast to the working-class eroticism of the leading Italian actresses of the period, among them were Sophia Loren and Anna Magnani.

The official screening of “L’Avventura” at the 1960 Cannes International Film Festival became an important milestone in the history of cinema. It ends with a round of boos from the audience, confused by the movie that begins as a mystery about a missing woman named Anna and turns into an almost emotionless intercourse between her fiancé. missing woman and her best friend, played by Miss Vitti.

Antonioni thought his career was over. Miss Vitti ran out of the auditorium in tears as her most heartfelt scenes were greeted with laughter. But a team of filmmakers, led by Roberto Rossellini, wrote a careless defense of the film, and the film won the festival’s Special Jury Prize and was widely praised. as a cinematic landmark.

Mainstream critics were divided on the film, which caused as much embarrassment as the praise. The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael declared it the best film of the year and praised Vitti’s work. In his review in the New York Times, Bosley Crowther twirled the film and described her performance as “in a strange and powerful way.” But it made her an instant international star, and in 1962 the British film magazine Sight & Sound declared it the second-best film ever made, after Citizen Kane.

Miss Vitti went on to star in two other Antonioni films, “La Notte” (1961) and “L’Eclisse” (1962), which he said was intended to form a trilogy with “L’Avventura” about the alienated in the modern world. They remain at the heart of Ms. Vitti’s legacy as a film actress.

She also starred in Antonioni’s first color film, “Red Desert” (1964), which many critics described as being like a fourth film in the alien franchise.

Realism, which had dominated Italian cinema since the end of the Second World War, was replaced in the late 1950s and early 60s by new approaches. Federico Fellini has become a global figure thanks to the power of popular series such as “La Strada” and “Nights of Cabiria”.

Vitti’s breakout role in “L’Avventura” came at the same time Fellini announced his most influential film to that point, “La Dolce Vita”. The two films both share a pessimistic theme about modern life, but couldn’t be more different. Fellini’s film captivated audiences with its charm, while Antonioni’s was so obscure that it failed to meet audiences’ expectations by ostentatiously ignoring them.

A romantic relationship blossomed between Miss Vitti and Antonioni during the filming of “L’Avventura” and grew stronger in the years that followed. At one point, before their relationship became widely known, Miss Vitti lived in an apartment just below Antonioni’s house in Rome, and the director installed a trapdoor and spiral staircase so they could can see each other whenever they like without any outside attention.

Attempts to make her the main star of the 1966 psychedelic British spy satire “Modesty Blaise” failed despite a strong cast, including Terence Stamp and Dirk Bogarde, and despite a director famous Joseph Losey in command.

After her relationship with Antonioni ended in 1967 and she stopped making films with him, she decided to reinvent her entire career, turning to light comedies, which at that time were only available in Italy. male stars dominate. Audiences and critics in Italy were stunned by her ability to be a comedian, which many believe was her greatest calling.

She continued to be a beloved star in Italy, although very few of her films during these years, such as “Kill Me Quick, I’m Cold” and “The Girl With a Pistol,” found audiences. international pseudo. An exception was Ettore Scola’s “Dramma della Gelosia”, which was released in the United States in 1970 as “The Pizza Triangle”, which was a huge success.

In 1974, she collaborated with another famous filmmaker, Luis Buñuel, on “Ghosts of Freedom”, her last major success.

Monica Vitti was born Maria Luisa Ceciarelli in Rome on November 3, 1931, the third child and only daughter of Angelo and Adele (Vittilia) Ceciarelli. She shortened her mother’s maiden name to make her own stage name.

She then recalls a difficult and impoverished childhood under strict parents who kept her reclusive at home while allowing her brothers freedom in the city, which she was furious. The experience, she said, made her wary of marriage and unwilling to have children.

To escape her unhappy home, she started acting as a teenager.

When she was 18, her parents and brother immigrated to the United States in search of their lucky chance, but she remained in Rome, where she graduated from the National Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1953.

“I took advantage of their absence to become an actress,” she said. “When they came back, my parents had to call me Monica. They had to admit what happened.”

She has had film roles since 1954, but is best known during this period as a stage and television actress. She met Antonioni in 1957, but he was having a hard time raising money to make movies at the time, and it wasn’t until “L’Avventura” that he was able to introduce her new star and character. me.

After the Antonioni trilogy, Ms. Vitti became one of the more glamorous figures on the international film scene, a regular face at Cannes and other international events. Her popularity continued, at least in Europe, after she turned to light comedies in the 1970s.

She began a relationship in 1975 with another Italian filmmaker, Roberto Russo, a cinematographer, screenwriter and director. They lived together for many years before getting married in 1995. He was still living with her.

In 1979, Ms. Vitti was recruited by Hollywood director Michael Ritchie for the film “A Near Perfect Love” in which she played the wife of an Italian film mogul who begins a romance in Cannes festival with a young filmmaker played by Keith Carradine. .

A year later, she worked for the last time with Antonioni on a television series called “The Mystery of Oberwald,” based on a play by Jean Cocteau. As a coda, it is an anti-vaginal medicine. Most critics shrugged in response and the film made little impact.

Ms. Vitti worked less on screen in the 1980s and focused again on stage work. She also teaches acting. In 1989, she tried her hand at directing with “Secret Scandal”, a film she wrote and in which she co-starred with Elliott Gould. The film drew critical acclaim but flopped at the box office and marked the end of her big-screen career.

For the next decade, she sporadically worked in Italian television.

During the height of her fame, after the release of “L’Avventura”, Ms. Vitti often gave it to Antonioni to try to explain to journalists what he meant by the film – especially why he turned it down. solve the mystery of Anna’s disappearance.

But in a New York Times interview in Manhattan just days before the film’s New York premiere, Vitti tried watching it with an answer almost as enigmatic as the movie.

“It’s a question the audience shouldn’t be asking,” she explains. “It’s not important. It was important that Anna took two books with her before she disappeared – the Bible and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘Tenderness Is Night’. A person who suggests our concern with ethics; the other is a literary experiment in which the heroine disappears midway through the book and is replaced by another protagonist. “

Alex Marshall and Elisabetta Povoledo contributed reporting. Monica Vitti, ‘Queen of Italian Cinema,’ Dies at 90

Fry Electronics Team

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