Monica Vitti, ‘Queen of Italian cinema’ and star of Antonioni’s 1960s masterpieces, dies at 90

At a time when Italian filmmakers were slowly moving away from the norms of Italian neorealism, which dominated Italian cinema in the 1940s and 1950s, Michelangelo Antonioni strove to develop a new style of cinema aimed at breaking away from conventional storytelling. . And in Monica Vitti, Antonioni found the perfect female lead – a frosty, frosty blonde with an air of mystery and intrigue and a perfect gait – for the kind of stories he wanted to tell, mostly revolving around the theme of social alienation, and in the experimental way he wanted to tell them, slow-paced with rambling narration marked by long takes. This resulted in cinema’s most iconic director-actress collaboration alongside Josef von Sternberg-Marlene Dietrich.

Antonioni’s 1960 masterpiece L’Avventura became the perfect conduit to release Vitti’s charismatic aura which was further solidified with films such as L’Eclisse (1961) and Red Desert ( 1964). Interestingly, when L’Avventura was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960, it was booed by audiences. The harsh reception would have brought tears to Vitti’s eyes. But something miraculous happened the very next day when a campaign by established filmmakers and writers declared L’Avventura the best film to screen at Cannes. After a second screening, the film won the Jury Prize and Vitti gained international fame overnight.

After her relationship with Antonioni ended in 1967, Vitti starred in several comedies directed by other directors such as Mario Monicelli’s La Fille au pistol (1968), Jean Valère’s La Dame écarlate (1969) Le Triangle de pizza d ‘Ettore Scola (1970), Teresa the Thief (1973) by Carlo Di Palma, among others. A year later, she starred in Spanish master filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s surreal masterpiece, The Phantom of Liberty (1974).

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