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Monica Vitti, icon of Italian cinema, dies aged 90

Italy's culture minister has described her as the "queen of Italian cinema"

By Hollie Geraghty

Monica Vitti looks past her co-star in a black and white still of 'L'AVVENTURA'
Monica Vitti in 1960 drama 'L'Avventura' (Picture: YouTube).

Italian actress Monica Vitti, best known for her starring roles in Michelangelo Antonioni films, has died aged 90.

The news was shared today by former Mayor of Rome and film critic Walter Veltroni, who was asked to do so by Vitti’s husband, Roberto Russo. “I do so with great grief, affection, and nostalgia,” he wrote.

Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini paid tribute to the late actor, describing her as the “queen of Italian cinema”. He added: “Today is a truly sad day, we have lost a great artist and a great Italian.”

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has also paid tribute, saying that Vitti “made Italian cinema shine around the world”.

 “An actress of great wit and extraordinary talent, she conquered generations of Italians with her spirit, her bravura, her beauty,” he added.

The film icon found fame in director Antonioni’s trilogy ‘L’Avventura’, ‘La Notte’ and ‘L’Eclisse’, the first of which earned her a BAFTA nomination.

She would become known for acting in comedies, and in 1995 was awarded a career Golden Golden Lion award at Venice Film Festival. She also won seven Italian Golden Globes throughout her career.

She only appeared in two English-language films, ‘Modesty Blaise’ in 1966 and 1979’s ‘An Almost Perfect Affair’. She had been retired for more than a decade due to Alzheimer’s.

In an essay for Criterion Collection, author Gilberto Perez noted the special working relationship the actress shared with Antonioni (via Variety).

“In her films with him, Vitti is as much beholding as beheld, identified with the director, whose gaze she doubles. Other male directors have adopted the point of view of a female character, but none has made a woman his surrogate in the way that Antonioni has Monica Vitti.

Vitti married pianist and composer Russo in 2000 after they had been in a relationship since 1973.