' ' Cinema Romantico: In Memoriam: Monica Vitti

Thursday, February 03, 2022

In Memoriam: Monica Vitti

Growing up in the shadow of the Heartland Co-op grain elevator, where the only place to rent movies was Waukee Video on 4th and Hickman, it took awhile before I got around to seeing Michelangelo Antonioni’s “L’Avventura” (1960) and even when I did it was only on the advice of Roger Ebert’s syndicated Great Movies review of it in the Des Moines Register. Clearly, I had never seen a movie like that. And honestly, I was not even sure what that was. This was pre-social media, of course, when the urge to quickly check your email while you’re watching a movie at home wasn’t something to consider, but even then, to say I was not somewhat inattentive, if not occasionally baffled, would be wrong. It did not work for me…and yet it worked for me. How? Why? I’m not sure I can say except to say that Monica Vitti had a presence on the camera in the way Jodhi May had a presence on the camera in “Last of the Mohicans.” It pulled me in. I felt it, even if I couldn’t explain it. “The film actor ought not to understand,” Antonioni was quoted as saying in Pierre Leprohon’s The Italian Cinema, “he ought to be.” No one could be like Monica Vitti. Still, it took me a couple tries with “L’Avventura” before I really, truly got it. As of one of those idiots who started really watching movies during the Tarantino, video store revolution, I was more concerned with narrative, with screenplays, with dialogue, not yet aware that movies didn’t necessarily need language because they had their own. Monica Vitti, who died Tuesday at the age of 90, spoke that language fluently. As much as anyone, she helped me understand it.  

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