Monica Vitti is one of the most iconic performers of European modernist cinema. She is best known for her extraordinary four-film collaboration with lover Michelangelo Antonioni in the early 1960s. The cultural and artistic impact of these four films – which launched her career – has, in the international realm at least, tended to obscure her much longer reign as an almost-unrivalled star of Italian comedy. Born in Rome in 1931, Vitti claimed to have discovered her love of performance while entertaining fellow children in bomb shelters during Allied air raids. Graduating from the Italian Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica in 1953, she sustained a minor career mainly in theatre, focusing on comedy, until tapped by Antonioni – 20 years her senior – while performing dubbing work on his 1957 film, Il grido.
She was to be his muse and star on his next four, legendary features – starting with L’avventura – showcasing an impenetrability perfectly attuned to the auteur’s portraits of alienation, ennui and the modern world. This trademark inscrutability translated exceptionally well into comedy, where her striking visage – with just the faintest hint of Buster Keaton around the eyes – was increasingly put to use for satirical, or outright farcical, purposes by the likes of Roger Vadim and Tinto Brass in the mid-1960s. This artistic trajectory culminated in her 1968 triumph in Mario Monicelli’s The Girl with a Pistol, for which she won the first of her five David di Donatello awards for Best Actress. This tribute season to the legendary Vitti – who passed away in February this year after a two-decade battle with Alzheimer’s – splits evenly between her austere, unforgettable turns in Antonioni’s L’eclisse and Red Desert, and her lighter side with Joseph Losey’s ultra-stylish 1966 spy spoof Modesty Blaise and Ettore Scola’s ménage à trois comedy Jealousy, Italian Style.
– Melbourne Cinémathèque
Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.
Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven.