‘Queen of Italian cinema’ Monica Vitti dies at 90

By Victor L. Simpson, Associated Press on February 2, 2022.

FILE – Italian actress Monica Vitti arrives at the Palais des Festivals to see the film ‘Identificazione di una Donna’ (Identification of a Woman) by director Michelangelo Antonioni, the Italian entry to the 35 annual Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 23, 1982. Monica Vitti, the versatile blonde star of Michelangelo Antonioni’s ‘L’Avventura’ and other 1960s Italian alienation films, and later a leading comic actress, died. She was 90 years old. (AP Photo/Jean Jacques Levy, File)

ROME (AP) — Monica Vitti, the versatile movie star of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” and other alienating 1960s Italian films, and later a top comic actress, has died. She was 90 years old.

His death was announced on Twitter on Wednesday by a former culture minister, Walter Veltroni, who said he was asked to communicate his passing by her husband, photographer Roberto Russo.

“Farewell to the queen of Italian cinema,” wrote the current Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, in a press release.

Vitti had been hidden from public view for years, living quietly in Rome with her husband. She reportedly suffered from a form of dementia.

In the glamorous era of the 1960s, she was best known for her leading roles in “L’Avventura”, “La Notte”, “Eclisse” (“Eclipse”) and “Red Desert”, all films directed by Antonioni, her lover. at this moment. Both were constant paparazzi targets.

“L’Avventura” has garnered her international attention and acclaim for her role as an icy woman drifting into a relationship with her missing girlfriend’s lover. In “Red Desert”, the last of the cycle, she plays a woman suffering from a deep and elusive neurosis as she struggles to cope with a transformed industrial world.

Vitti’s blonde hair and blue eyes set her apart from classic Mediterranean movie stars such as brown-haired Sophia Loren.

Antonioni himself paid tribute to his performance at a special screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1999 to mark the completion of an Italian film restoration project.

“The protagonist, Giuliana, is going through a deep personal crisis due to her inability to adapt,” he said, in remarks read by his wife, Enrica.

After Vitti’s relationship with Antonioni ended, they did not work together again until 1980. At that time, she changed direction drastically and began making comedies, working with top directors and some of the main Italian actors, including Alberto Sordi, a tragicomic. , in films whose characters often personified the strengths and weaknesses of Italians.

Although many of the films did not receive international distribution or acclaim, his performances were acclaimed in his home country.

In 1970 Vitti starred with Marcello Mastroianni in Ettore Scola’s romantic comedy “Dramma della gelosia” (“The pizza triangle”). In 1974, she won the equivalent of an Italian Oscar, a David di Donatello award, for best actress in Sordi’s “Polvere di Stelle,” one of five such awards in her career.

She starred in Luis Bunuel’s 1974 “The Phantom of Liberty,” a surreal treatment of middle-class hypocrisies, considered his last great film.

Her versatility set her apart from other actresses of her time.

In a memorable scene from “Amore mio aiutami” (“Help me, my love”), she and Sordi are rolling in the sand exchanging slaps and punches. In one of her only two English-language films, she found herself in a spy parody with Terence Stamp and Dirk Bogarde in 1966’s “Modesty Blaise.”

Vitti was born as Maria Luisa Ceciarelli in Rome in 1931. As a teenager, she appeared in amateur theater productions, then studied as an actress at the National Academy of Dramatic Arts in Rome. Her first film role was in Scola’s “Ridere Ridere Ridere” (“Laugh Laugh Laugh”) in 1954. Her last was “Scandalo Segreto” in 1989, which she wrote, directed and starred in.

His reclusive life gave rise to much speculation about his health. In 1988, Le Monde reported that she died of an overdose of barbiturates. She was very popular in France and her fans were outraged.

Here, the last public appearance dates back to 2002 for the premiere of “Notre Dame de Paris”.

In 1995, the Venice Film Festival awarded him a Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi referred to Vitti as “an actress of great irony and extraordinary talent, who won over generations of Italians with her wit, bravery and beauty. She brought prestige to cinema Italian all over the world.

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Victor L. Simpson retired from The Associated Press in 2013. Colleen Barry contributed from Milan.