Obituary of Monica Vitti | Movie


Although she has often been described, perhaps with a touch of irony, as the “muse of incommunicability” for her dramatic roles in several Michelangelo Antonioni films, Monica Vitti, dead at the age of 90 , has always aspired to be a comic actress. In 1962, he was asked to make a film for Agnes Varda, but refused it; as she explained in an interview, “I want to remain faithful to Michelangelo, who promised to make me the Carole Lombard of the second half of the century.” Although Vitti certainly had comparable looks and verve and eventually managed to become a popular comedic star, she will probably remain in the minds of most moviegoers as Giuliana, the complicated blonde young woman in Il Deserto Rosso d ‘Antonioni (Red Desert, 1964), his first feature film in color.

Giuliana was perhaps Vitti’s most believable and identifiable characterization. Her main concern is her child’s neurosis, but she is not helped by her anguished attempt at a romantic relationship with an engineer, played by Richard Harris. The film contains one of the most bizarre lines in world cinema: “My hair hurts me”, but it probably only aroused mirth when it was translated into a subtitle – Tonino Guerra, the co- screenwriter of the film, pointed out that in Italian it sounds better.

Vitti and Antonioni had started living together as he prepared to work on the film in which she rose to fame, L’Avventura (1960), but he didn’t tell her much about the role she was to play. play, neither before nor during his long and dangerous shot. She later said, “What I learned in drama school wasn’t very useful on the rocks of [the Sicilian island] Lisca Bianca, where we were filming in such dramatic conditions. Michelangelo treats his actors like objects, and it is useless to ask him for the meaning of a scene or a dialogue.

Vitti in Modesty Blaise by Joseph Losey, 1966. Photography: 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

Like most of the cast and crew, she trusted him and the film, in which she played Claudia, the best friend of a young woman who disappeared on a desert volcanic island. While searching for her, Claudia becomes involved with the missing woman’s boyfriend. All their hopes rested on Cannes, where the film was in competition. It was Vitti’s first festival experience, and the hostile reception from some of the audience at the official screening came as a shock, leaving her in tears. She quickly found solace in the film’s Jury Prize, awarded at the end of a campaign led by filmmaker Roberto Rossellini, which paved her way to stardom in Italy and internationally.

L’Avventura was the first of a trilogy told by Antonioni about alienation in the modern world, of which the second, La Notte (The Night, 1961), was arguably the best. The female lead was Jeanne Moreau, playing the wife of a disillusioned novelist (Marcello Mastroianni).

Vitti, on this occasion a brunette, had the important role of Valentina, a carefree girl of the world, for which she won the award for best actress in a supporting role from Italian film critics.

In the final film of the trilogy, L’Eclisse (The Eclipse, 1962), Vitti was paired with Alain Delon and gave another compelling performance in a complex role. The film was also mocked at Cannes, but it too won the special prize despite the opposition of François Truffaut.

In 1964, Vitti returned to the stage, chosen by Franco Zeffirelli to embody the character of Marilyn Monroe in Arthur Miller’s After the Fall. I was in Naples when Miller came to see the production there and praised Vitti’s performance.

After Red Desert, she played a lead role in Modesty Blaise (1966), directed by Joseph Losey and based on Peter O’Donnellthe comic of. Her relationship with Antonioni ended in 1967; the following year, she won the hearts of the public – in Italy, at least – by Mario Monicelli‘s La Ragazza con la Pistola (The Girl with the Gun), playing a Sicilian woman who travels to London to get revenge on the fiancé who abandoned her.

In a scene from The Girl with the Gun (La Ragazza con la Pistola), 1968.
In a scene from The Girl with the Gun (La Ragazza con la Pistola), 1968. Photography: Sipa USA/Alamy

In Ettore Scola’s show about Italian stereotypes, Dramma della Gelosia (The Pizza Triangle, 1970), she stood up to Mastroianni and Giancarlo Giannini; she was becoming the only woman to be bracketed (also in terms of salary) with the popular Italian male comic actors of the 70s, appearing in one commercial film after another. She often associates Alberto Sordi, matching his exaggerated performance. One of their best, with him directing, was a sub-Fellinian subject, Polvere di Stelle (Stardust, 1973), in which they played two delirious music-hall comic strips.

At that time, she was in a relationship with red desert cinematographer Carlo Di Palma. He directed her in three films, including Teresa la Ladra (Teresa the Thief, 1973), a comic saga of an orphan who survives World War II thanks to petty crime. In 1974, she appeared in The Phantom of Freedom by Luis Buñuel.

Born Maria Luisa to Adele (née Vittilia) and Angelo Ceciarelli, she later said her childhood was unhappy, and when her family emigrated to the United States when she was 18, she remained in Rome and enrolled in the Academy of Drama there. Her stage name comes from her mother’s maiden name.

During the summer of her graduation in 1953, her first theatrical engagement took place, in the chorus of a Greek tragedy. The first movie she appeared in was Ridere! Rider! Rider! (Laugh! Laugh! Laugh!, 1954). She had several small roles in films and plays before meeting Antonioni at a post-sync studio in Rome, where she dubbed the role of actor Dorian Gray in Il Grido (The Cry, 1957).

Antonioni also ran a theater company and he cast her as Sally Bowles in John van Druten’s play I Am a Camera, for which she received good reviews, before embarking on her trilogy.

Throughout his film career and his relationship with Di Palma, Antonioni and Vitti had remained close friends, and in 1980 he directed her for the last time in a TV movie of Jean Cocteau’s play L’Aigle à deux têtes. , which he called Il Mistero di Oberwald.

With her husband Roberto Russo in Rome, 1993.
With her husband Roberto Russo in Rome, 1993. Photography: Camilla Morandi/AGF/Rex/Shutterstock

Vitti had begun a relationship with photographer Roberto Russo in 1975, and he directed her in the low-key comedies Flirt (1983) and Francesca è Mia (Francesca’s Mine, 1986), as well as a TV show in which she hosted a debate with film and drama students. She and Russo married in 1995.

In 1990, Vitti starred in Scandalo Segreto (Secret Scandal), with Elliott Gould, about a woman who, while keeping a video diary, discovers her husband’s affair. Disappointed by the film’s mixed reception, she found a new creative outlet by publishing A Bed Is Like a Rose, a delightful semi-autobiographical book in which she says nothing could be further from her own personality than the genre of alienation with which she had so often been associated.

In 1995, Vitti was awarded a Career Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. She retired, like Garbo, from public life in her later years and the Italian media respected her privacy as she is believed to have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

She is survived by Russo.

Monica Vitti (Maria Luisa Ceciarelli), actress, born November 3, 1931; passed away on February 2, 2022

John Francis Lane died in 2019


Comments are closed.