Offscreen Notes

Monica Vitti (1931-Feb. 2, 2022)

February 3rd, 2022

The great actress Monica Vitti died at the age of 90 on Feb 2, 2022 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Vitti burst onto the International film scene as the muse of one of Italy’s greatest ever filmmakers Michelangelo Antonioni, as Claudia in L’Avventura. While Antonioni’s radical approach to narrative structure, temporality and use of architecture and landscape in several seismic films of the 1960s helped shape a new ‘modernist’ approach to narrative, the striking beauty and bodily intelligence of Monica Vitti was the face behind Antonioni’s modernism. Vitti will always be remembered for those first four thematically linked films she made with Antonioni, L’Avventura, La Notte, L’eclisse and Deserto Rosso, playing the archetypical modern woman navigating the post-WW2 Economic Miracle Italy. An Italy defined by Antonioni as a nation whose social and moral attitudes lagged behind the nation’s rapid economic growth. And Vitti, most powerfully in L’eclisse, where she begins the film by ending a stilted relationship with a man who represents the ‘old Italy’ Riccardo (Francisco Rabal) and begins seeing a man who represents the ‘new Italy’ Piero (Alain Delon), but is none the happier, and Deserto Rosso, was the emotional heartbeat of this existentially bared open new citizen. Vitti was called back into Antonioni’s universe when he experimented with the then new medium of video, and cast Vitti as “the Queen” in the 1980 Jean Cocteau story The Mystery of Oberwald. Fittingly to commemorate her death Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini wrote, “Goodbye to the queen of Italian cinema.” Indeed.

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