Monica Vitti, the great Italian screen actress this Wednesday (born in 3 November 1931) turned 90, away from the public eye as she has been since retiring with Alzheimer’s in 2002.
Vitti, was “the muse of incommunicability” for legendary director Michelangelo Antonioni. Starred in Antonioni’s great existential-angst cycle L’avventura, La Notte, L’eclissi, and Deserto Rosso in the 1960s. She collaborate also with other directors including another cinema great, Mario Monicelli.
She won five David di Donatello Awards for Best Actress, seven Italian Golden Globes for Best Actress, the Career Golden Globe, and the Venice Film Festival Career Golden Lion Award.
A documentary by Fabrizio Corallo marking her birthday features comic actor and director Carlo Verdone saying “(Alberto) Sordi thought she was great, better than any other female lead, because of her proverbial timing, and he loved her too” He added “Ordinary people felt she was close to them, she had entered into everyone’s hearts”.
In her early life Vitti acted in amateur productions as a teenager, then trained as an actress at Rome’s National Academy of Dramatic Arts (graduating in 1953) and at Pittman’s College, where she played a teen in a charity performance of Dario Niccodemi’s La nemica. She toured Germany with an Italian acting troupe and her first stage appearance in Rome was for a production ofNiccolò Machiavelli’s La Mandragola.
Vitti’s other notable films
On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who… (1967) with Tony Curtis, The Girl with a Pistol (1968) with Stanley Baker, The Bitch Wants Blood (1969) with Maurice Ronet, and Help Me, My Love (1969) with Sordi, Italy’s most popular comic actor of his generation.
Vitti starred also with Marcello Mastroianni in Ettore Scola’s highly successful romantic comedy Dramma della gelosia (The Pizza Triangle, 1970). She followed it with Ninì Tirabusciò, la donna che inventò la mossa (1970), Le coppie (1970) with Sordi, The Pacifist (1970), La supertestimone (1971), That’s How We Women Are (1971), and Orders Are Orders (1972). Vitti was in a version of La Tosca (1973) and a comedy Teresa the Thief (1973). She made Polvere di stelle (1973), directed by Alberto Sordi, for which she won the 1974 David di Donatello award for Best Actress.
Vitti played a key part in one of the episodic vignettes in Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty (1974). She did two films with Claudia Cardinale, The Immortal Bachelor (1975) and Blonde in Black Leather (1975). She was in Duck in Orange Sauce (1975), Mimì Bluette… fiore del mio giardino (1976), Basta che non si sappia in giro!..(1977), L’altra metà del cielo (1977), State Reasons (1978), Il cilindro (1978), Per vivere meglio, divertitevi con noi (1978), Amori miei (1978) and Tigers in Lipstick (1979) (with Ursula Andress).
Vitti’s second English-language film was An Almost Perfect Affair (1979), directed by Michael Ritchie and co-starring Keith Carradine, which was set during the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2000, Vitti married Roberto Russo, with whom she had been in a relationship since 1973. She made her last public appearance in 2002 at the Paris premiere of the stage-musical Notre-Dame de Paris. In 2011, it was disclosed that Alzheimer’s disease had “removed her from the public gaze for the last 15 years.” In 2018, her husband confirmed she is still living at home with him in Rome and that he looks after her personally, with the assistance of a caregiver.