Though she was usually described, maybe with a contact of irony, because the “muse of incommunicability” for her dramatic roles in a number of of Michelangelo Antonioni’s movies, Monica Vitti, who has died aged 90, at all times aspired to be a comic book actor. In 1962, she had a suggestion to do a movie for Agnès Varda, however turned it down; as she defined in an interview, “I need to stay loyal to Michelangelo, who has promised to make me the Carole Lombard of the second half of the century.” Although Vitti actually had comparable appears and verve, and did finally reach turning into a preferred comedic star, she is going to in all probability stay in most movie buffs’ minds as Giuliana, the difficult younger blond lady in Antonioni’s Il Deserto Rosso (Red Desert, 1964), his first color function.
Giuliana was maybe Vitti’s most credible and identifiable characterisation. Her essential concern is for her youngster’s neurosis, however she shouldn’t be helped by her anguished try at a romantic relationship with an engineer, performed by Richard Harris. The movie incorporates considered one of world cinema’s most weird strains: “My hair hurts”, but it surely in all probability aroused merriment solely when seen translated in a subtitle – Tonino Guerra, the movie’s co-writer, identified that in Italian it sounds higher.
Vitti and Antonioni had begun dwelling collectively as he ready to work on the movie wherein she shot to fame, L’Avventura (1960), however he didn’t inform her a lot concerning the half she was to play, both earlier than or throughout its extended and unsafe shoot. She later mentioned: “What I’d realized in drama faculty wasn’t a lot use on the rocks of [the Sicilian island] Lisca Bianca, the place we have been taking pictures below such dramatic circumstances. Michelangelo treats his actors as objects, and it’s ineffective to ask him the that means of a scene or a line of dialogue.”
Like many of the forged and crew, she had religion in him and the movie, wherein she performed Claudia, the perfect pal of a younger lady who goes lacking on a abandoned volcanic island. Whereas looking for her, Claudia turns into concerned with the lacking lady’s boyfriend. All their hopes have been pinned on Cannes, the place the movie was in competitors. It was Vitti’s first competition expertise, and the hostile reception from a number of the viewers on the official screening was a shock, leaving her in tears. She quickly discovered comfort within the movie’s jury prize, awarded after a marketing campaign led by the film-maker Roberto Rossellini, which opened the best way to her stardom in Italy and internationally.
L’Avventura was the primary in a trilogy mentioned by Antonioni to be about alienation within the fashionable world, of which the second, La Notte (The Night, 1961), was arguably the perfect. The feminine lead was Jeanne Moreau, taking part in the spouse of a disillusioned novelist (Marcello Mastroianni).
Vitti, on this event a brunette, had the numerous position of Valentina, a carefree society lady, for which she received a greatest supporting actress award from the Italian movie critics.
Within the ultimate movie of the trilogy, L’Eclisse (The Eclipse, 1962), Vitti was paired with Alain Delon and gave one other convincing efficiency in a posh position. The movie was additionally jeered at Cannes, but it surely too received the particular prize despite François Truffaut’s opposition.
In 1964, Vitti returned to the stage, chosen by Franco Zeffirelli to play the Marilyn Monroe character in Arthur Miller’s After the Fall. I used to be in Naples when Miller got here to see the manufacturing there and praised Vitti’s efficiency.
After Purple Desert, she had a lead position in Modesty Blaise (1966), directed by Joseph Losey and based mostly on Peter O’Donnell’s caricature. Her relationship with Antonioni resulted in 1967; the next yr she received the hearts of audiences – in Italy, not less than – in Mario Monicelli’s La Ragazza con la Pistola (The Lady With a Pistol), taking part in a Sicilian lady who goes to London to hunt revenge in opposition to the fiance who has deserted her.
In Ettore Scola’s send-up of Italian stereotypes, Dramma della Gelosia (The Pizza Triangle, 1970), she held her personal in opposition to Mastroianni and Giancarlo Giannini; she was turning into the one lady to be bracketed (additionally in wage phrases) with the favored Italian male comedian actors of the 70s, showing in a single business movie after one other. She usually partnered Alberto Sordi, matching his over-the-top performances. Considered one of their greatest, with him directing, was a sub-Fellini topic, Polvere di Stelle (Stardust, 1973), wherein they performed two delusional music-hall comics.
By then, she was in a relationship with the Purple Desert cinematographer, Carlo Di Palma. He directed her in three movies, together with Teresa la Ladra (Teresa the Thief, 1973), a comic book saga of a waif who survives the second world battle due to petty crime. In 1974, she appeared in Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty.
Born Maria Luisa to Adele (nee Vittilia) and Angelo Ceciarelli, she later mentioned that her childhood was sad, and, when her household emigrated to the US when she was 18, she stayed in Rome and enrolled on the Academy of Dramatic Artwork there. Her stage identify got here from her mom’s maiden identify.
In the summertime of her commencement in 1953 got here her first theatrical engagement, within the refrain of a Greek tragedy. The primary movie wherein she appeared was Ridere! Ridere! Ridere! (Snicker! Snicker! Snicker!, 1954). She had a number of small roles in movies and performs earlier than assembly Antonioni in a post-synchronisation studio in Rome, the place she dubbed the actor Dorian Grey’s half in Il Grido (The Cry, 1957).
Antonioni was additionally directing a theatre firm, and he forged her as Sally Bowles in John van Druten’s play I Am a Digicam, for which she obtained good evaluations, earlier than embarking on his trilogy.
All through her movie profession and relationship with Di Palma, Antonioni and Vitti had remained shut pals, and in 1980 he directed her for the final time in a TV movie of Jean Cocteau’s play The Eagle Has Two Heads, which he known as Il Mistero di Oberwald.
Vitti had begun a relationship with the photographer Roberto Russo in 1975, and he directed her within the low-key comedies Flirt (1983) and Francesca è Mia (Francesca’s Mine, 1986), in addition to a TV programme wherein she compered a debate with movie and drama college students. She and Russo married in 1995.
In 1990, Vitti directed herself in Scandalo Segreto (Secret Scandal), co-starring Elliott Gould, a couple of lady who, whereas retaining a video diary, discovers her husband’s affair. Dissatisfied when the movie was tepidly obtained, she discovered a brand new inventive outlet, publishing A Mattress Is Like a Rose, a pleasant semi-autobiographical ebook wherein she mentioned that nothing could possibly be farther from her personal persona than the sort of alienation with which she had so usually been related.
In 1995 Vitti was awarded a profession Golden Lion award on the Venice film festival. She withdrew, Garbo-like, from public life throughout her final years and the Italian media revered her privateness as she reportedly suffered from Alzheimer’s illness.
She is survived by Russo.
Monica Vitti (Maria Luisa Ceciarelli), actor, born 3 November 1931; died 2 February 2022