March 2016, arsenal cinema

Monica Vitti – Icon, Diva, Comedian!

L'AVVENTURA, 1960

Ethereal, cool, enchantingly beautiful, aloof – by the beginning of the 1960s, after four years and just as many films with her partner of the time, the director Michelangelo Antonioni, Monica Vitti had established herself as an outstanding actress and become the epitome of the opaque "silent diva". She suppressed this image insistently during the second half of her career: In a series of famous Italian comedies, she presented a very different Monica Vitti: witty, spirited, full of life. We pay homage to the great Italian actress with eight films from the 1960s to the 1980s.

Monica Vitti was born Maria Luisa Ceciarelli in Rome in 1931. She studied acting at the Accademia d'Arte Drammatica and started her career in theater. She was working as a dubbing artist for "Il Grido" when she met Antonioni, with whom she would go on to shoot four films in the early 1960s. In Antonioni's studies of alienation of man in the modern world, loneliness and lack of relationships, she became an icon of aloofness through her reduced and concentrated style of acting.

From the mid-1960s on, she turned to Commedia allitaliana, popular cinema that combined realistic humor and biting satire with criticism of the habits of the bourgeoisie and social conditions. She became a female star of Italian comedy, which was otherwise dominated by men, and also made films outside of Italy with directors such Joseph Losey or Luis Buñuel. She played in over 50 films for cinema and television before retiring from acting, turning instead to teaching, writing and directing.

L'AVVENTURA (Michelangelo Antonioni, I/F 1960, 22. & 28.3.) The first part of Antonioni's trilogy and the first cooperation between him and Vitti is a key work of modern cinema. A young woman (Lea Massari) disappears during a boat trip to the Aeolian Islands. The search for her remains futile. A short while later, her lover (Gabriele Ferzetti) starts a relationship with her best friend (Monica Vitti). The story set amid impressive buildings and monuments recedes against Antonioni's intensive observations of a group of people. "I don't know if I'm a good actress, whether I played as I was supposed to or whether I was bad. I only know that I gave everything I could for an extraordinary film." (Monica Vitti)

Adapted from a comic, MODESTY BLAISE (Joseph Losey, GB 1966, 23. & 29.3.) is a spoof of 1960s spy films, with Monica Vitti in the role of the double agent Modesty Blaise. The British secret services recruit her to protect a shipment of diamonds to an Arab sheikh. Hot on her heels are her antagonists Mr and Mrs Fothergill. The plot is irrelevant in this imaginative comedy in which with her throaty laugh Vitti seems to be having great fun, just like all the other protagonists.

LA NOTTE (The Night, Michelangelo Antonioni, I/F 1961, 24. & 31.3., Introduction: Uta Felten) A day in the life of the married couple Giovanni (Marcello Mastroianni) and Lidia (Jeanne Moreau). Within the space of 24 hours, between a hospital visit to a fatally ill friend (Bernhard Wicki), who dies during the course of the film, and the party of a business tycoon in Milan, their relationship successively dissolves. An encounter with Valentina (Monica Vitti) the tycoon's daughter exacerbates their divide – while Giovanni is irresistibly attracted to her, Lidia detects the loss of her love. Without resorting to dramatic effects, but plenty of crystal clear black-and-white shots, Antonioni develops a geometry of loneliness.

DRAMMA DELLA GELOSIA (The Pizza Triangle, Ettore Scola, I/Spain 1970, 24. & 27.3.) The builder Oreste (Marcello Mastroianni) is in court after attacking a newly-wed couple. The story is told in flashbacks, which start off with the drunken Oreste having a vision on a carousel of the florist Adelaide (Monica Vitti), with whom he begins a passionate relationship. The fact that he is married makes no difference. At a Communist Party demo, he becomes friends with the pizza cook Nello (Giancarlo Giannini) who also falls in love with Adelaide. The feeling is mutual but she doesn't want to lose Oreste. Their subsequent ménage-a-trois ends ingloriously with a suicide attempt. This turbulent love triangle comedy, in which Vitti overflows with vitality is a comedy of manners, which observes the protagonists' living conditions very closely and fluctuates between drama and humor in a breathtaking manner.

L'ECLISSE (Eclipse 1962, Michelangelo Antonioni, I/F 1962, 25. & 27.3.) The final part Antonioni's trilogy begins with a separation. After a long night of debate, Vittoria (Monica Vitti) leaves her boyfriend Riccardo. Through her mother, she meets the broker Pietro (Alain Delon). The new relationship is ill-fated because of the inability to communicate and lack of commitment to the relationship. In a long closing sequence, Antonioni films a city that is empty of people, the symbol of a world that has forfeited humanity.

LA RAGAZZA CON LA PISTOLA (The Girl with the Pistol, Mario Monicelli, I 1968, 25. & 30.3.) The beautiful Sicilian Assunta (Monica Vitti) is kidnapped by the young Vincenzo, who intends to marry her despite having "defiled" her in such a way. Assunta is not so enamored of the plan and Vincenzo flees to England out of fear. She follows him with a pistol. Once she arrives she finds herself faced not only with Vincenzo, but with a completely different, more liberal culture. The humorous film contrasts Sicilian temperament with British understatement and lives from the charm, comic talent and personality of Monica Vitti.

IL DESERTO ROSSO (Red Desert, Michelangelo Antonioni, I/F 1964, 26. & 30.3.) Giuliana (Monica Vitti) who is desperate in her loveless marriage fails to find her bearings in her daily life after an accident. She has panic attacks and can no longer look after her small son. She perceives her surroundings to be devoid of life entirely. They consist of cold interiors and destroyed industrial complexes. Her impressions turn into apocalyptic visions of decay. Hues of red form the color texture of this film about shifts in perception and loss of reality. 

IO SO CHE TU SAI CHE IO SO (I Know That You Know That I Know, Alberto Sordi, Italy 1982, 26. & 29.3.) The bank manager Fabio Bonetti (Alberto Sordi) and loving husband/father leads an exemplary life in Rome - at least that's what he thinks. His bourgeois worldview is shattered when he discovers that a private eye followed his wife (Monica Vitti) for weeks after a mix-up. In secret in his country home, he watches the Super8 recordings and eventually has to admit that all is not what it seems.(mg/al)

With the kind support oft he Italian Cultural Institute of Berlin.

arsenal cinema: Magical History Tour: Production Design

07:30 pm Cinema 2


Blade Runner

Blade Runner Ridley Scott USA 1982
With Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer Final Cut
DCP OV/GeS 117 min

arsenal cinema: Retrospective Pietro Germi

08:00 pm Cinema 1


Divorzio all’italiana

Divorzio all’italiana Divorce Italian Style Italy 1961
With Marcello Mastroianni, Stefania Sandrelli, Daniela Rocca
35 mm OV/EnS 118 min

Opening Introduced by Mario Sesti (in English)