The unrepeatable 'ragazza' - The Province

turned into myth unavoidable after the wave of innovation that emerged in post-neorealist Italy under the baton of Michelangelo Antonioni, Mario Monicelli, Luigi Zampa, Ettore Scola, Mauro Bolognini or Francesco Maselli, his continued presence in Italian cinema became, for many years, one of the great icons of comedy of manners, sharing the limelight with legendary figures of the genre such as Alberto Sordi, Ugo Tognazzi, Vittorio Gassman, Maurice Ronet, Giancarlo Giannini, Peppino De Filippo, Michele Placido, Nino Manfredi, Ettore Manni, Roberto Benigni or Fernandel, while participating in the famous tetralogy on solitary confinement created by Antonioni, in an admirable display of dramatic versatility that would ostensibly broaden his professional horizon and earn him, among many other international awards, the Donatello's David for best actress five times and the Special Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1995.

Endowed with a warm and overwhelming beauty, far removed from the most stereotyped standards of the cinema of its time; with a hoarse voice, hyperoval eyes and dreamy lips, Maria Luisa Ceciarelli, popularly known as Monica Vitti (Rome, 1931/Ibid, 2022)became, in the sixties and seventies, one of the fundamental figures of cinematographic modernity, exhibiting an exceptional interpretive capacity thanks to an emotional control that allowed him to incarnate with admirable naturalness characters with very diverse profiles, both in the field of the traditional comedy, in which he always shone with his own light, as in the psychological overtones dramas that would facilitate his incorporation into the best auteur cinema that circulated in those years through the art and essay halls of half of Europe.

Although she always avoided the temptation to become a great Hollywood star, a dream goal for any European actress of the time, throughout her acting career she would never show the slightest desire to leave her native Italy in exchange for a vague and uncertain promise of triumph in the mecca of cinema, as many of her contemporaries did, with greater or lesser success, such as Virna Lisi, Alida Valli, Gina Lollobrigida or Sophia Loren. His artistic career, which began in 1954 with a brief intervention in The mink coat (Ridere, ridere, ridere¡. Una pelliccia di visone), by Glanco Pellegrini, and ended thirty-five years later with Scandalo segreto, a telefilm starring and directed by the actress herself, it would run almost entirely on the stages and sets of her country, accompanied by an extensive list of mythical figures who, like her, contributed to broadening the creative horizons of transalpine cinematography after the clear signs of exhaustion that began to show the glorious neorealist movement already crossed the threshold of the sixties.

His persevering roots in the national industry did not prevent him, however, from making some forays into other cinematographies, such as the French one, where he would star alongside Jean Yanne Reason of State (La raison d'état, 1978), by Andre Cayatte, or the British, assuming the role of a popular comic book character in Modesty Blaise, super female agent (Modesty Blaise, 1966), an ineffable psychedelic pastiche perpetrated by the former Anglo-American master Joseph Losey and co-starring the great Dirk Bogarde; a film that, despite everything, would provide Vitti with an indisputable plus of popularity —its box office repercussion around the world somehow compensated for the unanimous failure it garnered among critics—. And in 1974, as with Antonioni at the beginning of the sixties, he returned to the bull's-eye of success by joining the vast cast of The Phantom of Liberty (Le fantôme de la liberté), Luis Buñuel's testamentary film in which the actress offers a concise performance but with an incontestable dramatic conciseness.

Endowed with a warm and overwhelming beauty, she became a key figure thanks to the emotional control in her interpretations.


Be that as it may, her expansive and talkative image, which she would exhibit so many times on the screen embodying heroines with strong popular roots in titles with enormous box office repercussions, such as The Demon of Jealousy (Dramma della gelosia, 1970), by Ettore Scola; The Hare and the Tortoise (La lepre e la tataruga, 1962), by Alessandro Blasetti; That blonde is mine (La tosca. Polvere di stelle, 1973), by Alberto Sordi; The four dolls (Le bambole, 1965), by Dino Risi, Luigi Comencini, Mauro Bolognini and Franco Ross, The most explosive woman in the world (Ninì Tirabusciò: la donna che inventò la mossa, 1971), by Marcello Fondato or Kill me, I have cold (Fai in fretta ad uccidermi ho freddo!, 1967), by Francesco Maselli, although impregnated with enormous doses of irony about the Italian society of his time and with excellent performances by the actress, contrasted with the other image that Antonioni built for him ex professed to embody the protagonists of The Adventure (L'avventura, 1960), The Night (La notte, 1961), The Eclipse (L'eclisse, 1962) and The Red Desert (Il Deserto rosso, 1964), a Copernician twist that placed it at the top of the most committed cinematographic art of the second half of the 20th century, contributing to elevate its artistic image to stratospheric levels.

Thus, the author of Blow Up. Desire for a Summer Morning (Blow Up, 1966), and her lover at the time, was the true architect of her transformation into an actress with powerful and unexpected dramatic registers, incorporating her as the protagonist of the monumental recreation that he made, through these four films, of the dramatic isolation and moral decadence of a bourgeoisie captive of its own self-absorption in a time sown with profound contradictions. Antonioni uncompromisingly dissects the society of the time: the lack of communication, the lack of scruples and ideals of the bourgeoisie and the intellectual elites. And the coldness in the relationships of the protagonists is magnificently underlined by the icy —and unforgettable— black and white photography by Gianni di Venanzo and by the brilliant internalization exercise with which the star faces the composition of each of his four characters. .

He never showed the slightest desire to leave his native Italy in exchange for an uncertain promise of triumph in Hollywood.


But Monica, who in 1981 would again star under Antonioni's command in the enigmatic and fascinating The Mystery of Oberwald (Il mistero di Oberwald), another experimental film that would not, however, enjoy the same critical reception as her famous tetralogy, would continue along the path of comedy, sowing the history of cinema with splendid performances that we keep in our memory today as the reflection of a personality that is ultimately unrepeatable.

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