Monica Vitti, a Queen of Italian Cinema, Dies at 90
Monica Vitti, one of the most impactful and glamorous stars in Italian movie history, died Wednesday in Rome at 90.
Her death was announced by filmmaker Walter Veltroni, and Vitti was remembered by Italy's culture minister with the words, "Goodbye to the queen of Italian cinema."
Born Maria Luisa Ceciarelli on November 3, 1931, she was a well-known star of the stage in Italy in the '50s before her credited movie debut in 1955, and also appeared on Italian TV.
With "Le dritte" (1958), she gained acclaim, but her career took a turn with her iconic performance in "L'Avventura" (1960), which caused a sensation at Cannes for its deviation from standard narrative flow, its chic ennui, director Michelangelo Antonioni's eye, and Vitti's turn as a detached beauty.
Booed at Cannes, "L'Avventura" won the Special Jury Prize after filmmakers rallied around it as a landmark. By 1962, some were calling it one of the best films ever made.
"L'Avventura" and her other early works with her lover Antonioni — "La Notte" (1961), "L'Eclisse" (1962), "Il Deserto Rosso" (1964) — made her an icon. When their affair ended, so did their creative collaboration, revived only with the undistinguished TV movie "Il mistero di Oberwald" (1980) many years later.
One of her few English language films was "Modesty Blaise" (1966), a lavish British spy thriller that tanked at the box office. She was reluctant to try again, fearing air travel and feeling her English wasn't strong enough. "An Almost Perfect Affair" (1979) was hampered by her unwillingness to come to the U.S. for promotional appearances.
Her next international hit after her suite of Antonioni instant classics was "Dramma della Gelosia" (1970), and her final unqualified critical success came with "The Phantom of Liberty" (1974), directed by Luis Buñuel.
Vitti worked steadily, making one ore more films every year through 1983.
She had a hand in writing her last two films, "Francesa è mia" (1986) and "Scandalo segreto" (1990), directing the latter, but neither were hits. After appearing in the TV movie "Ma tu mi vuoi bene?" in 1992, she retired.
Vitti made her final public appearance in 2002 before receding from public view to battle Alzheimer's disease with the support of her partner of nearly 50 years and husband of over 20 years Roberto Russo, who survives her.