Monica Vitti, Italian Film Actress and Muse, Dead at 90

Monica Vitti Photo: Documento/Kobal/Shutterstock

Monica Vitti, iconic Italian actress and muse to directors Michelangelo Antonioni and Luis Buñuel, died in Rome on Wednesday after battling Alzheimer’s disease for decades. Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini mourned Vitti’s death at 90 in a news release. “Goodbye to the queen of Italian cinema,” he wrote.

Vitti captivated international audiences with her chilly, ethereal beauty when she starred in the contentious Antonioni film L’Avventura, which was lauded by British magazine Sight & Sound in 1962 as the second-greatest movie ever made after Citizen Kane. The actress continued her symbiotic relationship and romance with Antonioni when she starred in his films La Notte, L’Eclisse, and Red Desert. 

Vitti pivoted to comedic roles in 1967 after her relationship with Antonioni ended. Despite her enigmatic Hitchcockian exterior, she possessed a knack for comedy, acting in internationally recognized films such as The Pizza Triangle and Kill Me Quick, I’m Cold. She also collaborated with pioneering Surrealist director Buñuel on his film The Phantom of Liberty in 1974.

After escaping a childhood of poverty and a difficult home life, teenage Vitti found solace in acting before graduating from the National Academy of Dramatic Art in 1953. In 1995, Vitti was awarded the illustrious career Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. She is survived by her husband, film director Robert Russo.

Monica Vitti, Italian Actress and Muse, Dead at 90