Nationality: Italian. Born: Maria Luisa Ceciarelli in Rome, 3 November 1931. Education: Attended Pittman's College and Academy of Dramatic Art, both in Rome. Career: Stage actress in Rome; 1955—film debut in Ridere, ridere, ridere; 1959—first of several films for Antonioni, L'avventura, brought international attention. Awards: Three Nastro d'Argento Awards, nine David Di Donatello Awards, and four Italian Golden Grails.
Films as Actress:
Ridere, ridere, ridere (Anton); Adriana Lecouvreur (Salvani)
Una pelliccia di visone (Pellegrini)
Le dritte (Smart Girls) (Amendola)
L'avventura (Antonioni) (as Claudia)
La notte (The Night) (Antonioni) (as Valentina Gherardini)
L'eclisse (The Eclipse) (Antonioni) (as Vittoria); "Le Lievre et la tortue" ("The Tortoise and the Hare") ep. of Les Quatres Vérités (Three Fables of Love) (Blasetti) (as Madeleine)
Château en Suède (Nutty Naughty Chateau) (Vadim) (as Eleanore Falsen); Dragées au poivre (Sweet and Sour) (Baratier) (as Elle)
"La sospirosa" ("The Singing Woman" or "The Victim") ep. of Alta infedeltà (High Infidelity) (Salce) (as Gloria); Il deserto rosso (The Red Desert) (Antonioni) (as Giuliana); "La ministra" ("The Soup") ep. of Le bambole (Four Kinds of Love; The Dolls) (Rossi) (as Giovanna)
Il disco volante (The Flying Saucer) (Brass) (as Mercedes); Fai in fretta ad ucidermi . . . ho Freddo! (Maselli) (as Giovanna)
Modesty Blaise (Losey) (title role); "Fata Sabina" ("Queen Sabina") ep. of Le fate (The Queens; Sex Quartet) (Salce) (title role); Le piacevoli notti
Ti ho sposato per allegria (I Married You for Fun) (Salce) (as Giuliana)
La ragazza con la pistola (The Girl with the Pistol) (Monicelli) (as Assunta Borello); La Femme écarlate (The Scarlet Woman) (Valere) (as Lucie)
La cintura di Castità (The Chastity Belt; On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who . . .) (Campanile) (as Boccadora); Vedo nudo (Risi); Amore mio, aiutami (Sordi) (as Raffaella)
Nini Tirabuscio, la donna che incento la mossa (Fondato) (as Maria Sarta); Dramma della gelosia—tutti i particolari in cronaca (The Pizza Triangle; A Drama of Jealousy; The Motive Was Jealousy) (Scola) (as Adelaide)
La pacifista (Smetti di piovere; The Pacifist) (Jancsó) (as the Journalist); "The Refrigerator" and "The Lion" eps. of Le coppie (Monicelli and De Sica); La supertestimone (Giraldi)
Teresa la ladra (Teresa the Thief) (Di Palma); Gli ordini sono ordini; Noi donne siamo fatte cosi (Rosi) (twelve roles)
Tosca (Magni); Polvere di stelle (Sordi) (as Dea Adami)
La Fantôme de la liberté (The Phantom of Liberty; The Specter of Freedom) (Buñuel) (as Mrs. Fouca)
A mezzanotte va la ronda del piacere (The Immortal Bachelor; Midnight Pleasures; Qui comincia l'avventura) (Fondato) (as Tina Candela); L'Anatra all'orancia (Duck in Orange Sauce) (Salce) (as Lisa)
La Raison d'état (Cayatte) (as Angela)
An Almost Perfect Affair (Ritchie) (as Maria); Letti selvaggi (Zampa)
Non ti conasco più amore (Corbucci)
Il mistero di Oberwald (The Mystery of Oberwald) (Antonioni) (as the Queen); Camera d'albergo (Monicelli); Tango della gelosia (Tigers in Lipstick) (Steno)
Io so che tu sai che io so (I Know that You Know that I Know) (Sordi); Scusa se e poco (Vicario)
Flirt (Russo) (as Laura); Trenta minuti d'amore (Vicario)
Francesco e mia (Russo) (+ co-sc, story)
Film as Actress, Director, and Co-Scriptwriter:
Scandalo segreto (Secret Scandal)
By VITTI: book—
Sette sottane, Milan, 1993.
By VITTI: articles—
Interview with A. Remond, in Cinéma (Paris), November 1973.
Interview with E. Decaux and Bruno Villien, in Cinématographe (Paris), December 1982.
Interview with Ralf Schenk, in Film und Fernsehen, (Berlin), January 1985.
On VITTI: book—
Delli Colli, Laura, Monica Vitti, Rome, 1987.
On VITTI: articles—
Lucas, C., "Monica Vitti," in Show (Hollywood), October 1961.
"Le donne del cinema contro questo cinema," edited by Bellumori, in Bianco e nero (Rome), January/February 1972.
Stars (Mariembourg), December 1988.
Jousse, Thierry and others, "Antonini, l'homme invisible," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), September 1992.
Film a Doba (Prague), Summer 1994.
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Monica Vitti is best known for her representation of the macho Italian version of woman in many of director Antonioni's films, but it must be said that he manipulated her performances with a callow disregard for human integrity. In the director's great trilogy, Vitti appears as the molded woman, not only in the cinematography but also in the narrative. In L'avventura she replaces the first woman of Sandro, the male lead. For all his intellectual Weltschmerz, Sandro has the same attitude toward women as that of any bravo hanging out in the square of any Italian village. He, not she, has the luxury of promiscuity and its subsequent guilt. In the last scene, the Vitti persona forgives the repentant lover like some Florentine Madonna—wistful and melancholy, yet always accepting.
L'eclisse is hardly better: in it Vitti plays a sexually exploited woman. To underscore her position she dresses up, applies blackface, and performs a dance for the entertainment of a colonial from Kenya. It may be said that this scene demonstrates a certain sympathy for her situation, but such acceptance of male sympathy is cheap.
In La notte she plays the passive observer, the writer manqué. In Antonioni's world, while women can represent symbolically creative apperception, it is only the male poet or director who can actually "make." Finally, in Il deserto rosso, her baffled gestures and her wistful smile à la Watteau are excruciatingly painful. This role seems the ultimate degradation that Antonioni could effect upon the Vitti persona.
Probably her finest role, at least as a fully cognizant human being, is that of the title character in Joseph Losey's Modesty Blaise. Admittedly, at the time of its appearance, it was a role little appreciated by the critics sharing the same sexual malaise as Antonioni. The film gained a cult following, however, in the radicalized college campuses of the 1960s. Here, Vitti's husky voice is heard to best advantage. But of even greater significance is the film's translation of the refined woman into an active, female James Bond. Here, then, lies the sublime irony of Losey's film: this actress, whom Antonioni had made out to be the helpless and indecisive neurotic, now becomes the ever-competent agent—more competent than her male assistant, played by Terence Stamp. Losey, in his desire to set the secret-agent genre on its head, could not have found a better actress to represent Modesty Blaise.