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Mario Monicelli

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mario Monicelli
Monicelli in 2007
Born(1915-05-16)16 May 1915
Rome, Kingdom of Italy
Died29 November 2010(2010-11-29) (aged 95)
Rome, Italy
  • Screenwriter
  • film director
  • actor
Years active1935–2010
AwardsSilver Bear for Best Director
1957: Padri e figli
1976: Caro Michele
1981: Il Marchese del Grillo
Golden Lion
1959: La Grande Guerra
Career Golden Lion
1991: Lifetime Achievement

Mario Alberto Ettore Monicelli (Italian: [ˈmaːrjomoniˈtʃɛlli]; 16 May 1915 – 29 November 2010) was an Italian film director and screenwriter, one of the masters of the commedia all'italiana ("Italian-style comedy"). He was nominated six times for an Oscar, and received the Golden Lion for his career.

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The early times

Monicelli was born in Rome to a well-do family from Ostiglia,[1] a comune in the province of Mantua, in the Northern Italian region of Lombardy, as the second of five children of Tomaso Monicelli, a journalist, and Maria Carreri, a housewife. His older half-brother, Giorgio (whose mother was actress Elisa Severi), worked as writer and translator. An older brother, Franco, was a journalist.

Raised in Rome, Viareggio (Tuscany) and Milan,[2][1] Monicelli lived a carefree youth, and many of the cinematic jokes he later shot in My Friends (1975) were inspired by his own experiences during his youth in Tuscany.

In Milan, he finished his third year of high school and began his university studies. In the Lombard capital, Monicelli met Riccardo Freda, Remo Cantoni, Alberto Lattuada, Alberto Mondadori and Vittorio Sereni; together they founded, with the support of the publisher Mondadori, the newspaper Camminare, in which Monicelli dealt with film criticism. Monicelli recounted how, in his criticism, he was very critical of Italian films, while, on the other hand, he exalted American and French films, which he loved very much, stating that perhaps he did so out of a veiled form of anti-fascism. Camminare did not last long as the Ministry of Popular Culture suppressed it because it was considered left-wing.[3]

Later, Monicelli returned to Tuscany, where he completed his University studies in Pisa, at the Faculty of Literature and Philosophy. Interested in the world of celluloid, he kept on putting off graduating until he was called up for military service. Monicelli said: "it was enough to go to graduation dressed as a soldier and you didn't need a thesis or anything else [...] That's how my degree came about, I don't even know if it's valid."[4]

In 1934 he shot his "first cinematographic experiment", the short film Cuore rivelatore (Tell-tale Heart), inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's work of the same name,[5] together with Alberto Mondadori and Alberto Lattuada, with the latter acting as set designer as he was an architecture student at the time. The three sent it to a national cultural festival, "Littoriali", hoping in vain that it would be shown, but the film was branded as an example of "paranoid cinema".


Always with his friend Alberto Mondadori, he released the silent film I ragazzi della Via Paal (an adaptation of the novel The Paul Street Boys), which was an award-winner in the Venice Film Festival.[6] The award earned Monicelli the opportunity to work in the production of a professional film.[7] He was therefore able to skip the various stages of professional training and was sent, together with Mondadori, to work as a camera assistant in the production of Gustav Machatý's film Ballerine.

After that he found work, as a camera assistant again, in Augusto Genina's film Lo squadrone bianco (1936)[8] and The Castiglioni Brothers (1937) by Corrado D'Errico. There he met Giacomo Gentilomo, who hired him as an assistant director and co-writer for Short Circuit (1943),[9] considered as a possible precursor to the giallo genre.[10]

In 1937, under the pseudonym of Michele Badiek,[11] he wrote and directed the amateur film Summer Rain (1937).[12] The film was attended by many friends and fellow citizens. Monicelli said that this experience was important for his training, as he learned to[13]

"write for the cinema, to shoot, to deal with actors [...] And, above all, to realise, when I watched the film again in the theater, that what I was putting on the screen every day did not correspond, if at all, to my expectations".

From 1939 to 1942, he produced up to 40 numerous screenplays, and worked as an assistant director.[citation needed]

In 1940 Monicelli enlisted in the cavalry, hoping that this choice could avoid him being sent to Russia or to Africa.[14] When the army broke up in 1943, he fled to Rome, where he remained hidden until the summer of 1944.[15]

In 1946 his father Tomaso committed suicide.[16] Being a journalist and a literary critic, Tomaso Monicelli had dared to criticise the fascist regime especially after the murder of Giacomo Matteotti in 1924. He was blacklisted and boycotted for his writings and endured a series of failures. Later on, Monicelli said he could understand his father's decision.[17][18]

"I understood his gesture. He had been unjustly cut off from his job, even after the war was over, and he felt he had nothing left to do here. Life is not always worth living; if it stops being true and dignified, it's not worth it. I found my father's body. Around six o'clock in the morning I heard a gunshot, I got up and forced the bathroom door open. A very modest bathroom, by the way."

Comedy Italian style

Monicelli made his official debut as a director in 1949 along with Steno, with the film Totò cerca casa, starring the comedy genius Totò. From the very beginning of his career Monicelli's cinematic style had a remarkable flow to it. The duo produced eight successful movies in four years, including the cult film Cops and Robbers (1951) and Totò a colori (1952). From 1953 onwards Monicelli worked alone, without leaving his role as a writer of screenplays.[citation needed]

Monicelli's career includes some of the masterpieces of Italian cinema. In Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), featuring the ubiquitous comedian Totò in a side role, he discovered the comical talent of Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni and probably started the new genre of the modern commedia all'italiana ("Italian-style comedy"). While better known in the English-speaking world under the title Big Deal on Madonna Street, the actual translation from the Italian is "the usual unknown perpetrators" (closely resembling the famous line from Casablanca: "Round up the usual suspects"). The film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 31st Academy Awards.[19]

The Great War (1959), released one year later, is generally regarded as one of his most successful works, which rewarded Monicelli with a Golden Lion in the Venice Film Festival, and an Academy Award nomination for the Best Foreign Film.[20] The film featured the famous drama actor Vittorio Gassman, the Italian superstar of comedy, Alberto Sordi, and a star of Italian neorealism Silvana Mangano. It excelled in the absence of rhetorical accents and for its sharp, tragicomical sense of history while portraying the Italian defeat during World War I.

Among the difficulties encountered in the production of the films, those related to censorship were particularly strong. The film Totò and Carolina (1955) underwent three revisions, because according to the censors, the mere fact that the policeman was played by Totò was tantamount to pillorying the police.

Monicelli received two more Academy Award nominations with I compagni (1963), a heart-felt homage to "humanitarian socialism"[21] and The Girl with the Pistol (1968),[22] which tackled the themes of bride kidnapping and honor killing, still relevant in the Southern-Italian culture of the time.

L'armata Brancaleone (1966) is another masterpiece of Italian cinema. The film tells the tragicomic tale of a Middle Ages Italian knight, with uncertain nobility and few means but high ideals, self-confidence and pomposity (Vittorio Gassman). The bizarre macaronic Latin-Italian dialogues were devised by Age & Scarpelli, the most renowned writers of Italian comedies, and represent a whole linguistic invention which was followed by Brancaleone at the Crusades (1970), and less successfully in Bertoldo, Bertoldino e Cacasenno (1984).[citation needed]

My Friends (1975), featuring Ugo Tognazzi, Adolfo Celi, Gastone Moschin, Duilio Del Prete and Philippe Noiret, was one of the most successful films in Italy and confirmed Monicelli's genius in mixing humour, irony and bitter understanding of the human condition. The film was popular to the point that some lines are today turned into well established idiomatic expression ("la supercazzola"), and even a programming language ("monicelli") has been created using a syntax based on film quotes. His 1976 film Caro Michele (1976) won him the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 26th Berlin International Film Festival.[23]

Dramatic accents were predominant in the An Average Little Man (1977), featuring Alberto Sordi for his first complete dramatic role. Here Monicelli's pessimism takes over: the transformation of Italian society was such that it was no longer possible to laugh, believe or hope.[24] This is why it is considered by many critics to be the film that brings the season of Italian-style comedy to a close.[25]

Final years

He turned again to more cheerful comedy and attention to historical events from a popular, intimate point of view with Il Marchese del Grillo (1981), also featuring Alberto Sordi at his best. The film was awarded Monicelli's third Silver Bear for Best Director award at the 32nd Berlin International Film Festival.[26] The Rogues (1987) was also a historical parody set during Renaissance.

Among the final works by Monicelli are Speriamo che sia femmina (1986), Parenti serpenti (1992) and Dear Goddamned Friends (1994), featuring Paolo Hendel. The latter won an Honourable Mention at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival.[27] His 1999 film Dirty Linen was entered into the 21st Moscow International Film Festival.[28]

His last feature film was The Roses of the Desert (2006), which he directed when he was 91 years old.

In 1991 he received the Golden Lion for Career of the Venice Film Festival. A documentary made by Roberto Salinas and Marina Catucci, Una storia da ridere, breve biografia di Mario Monicelli, appeared in 2008.[citation needed]


At the age of 90, Monicelli decided to go and live on his own, in order to remain self-sufficient and survive to ageing for a longer time.[29][18]

"[I did it]To stay alive as long as possible. The love of women, relatives, daughters, wives, lovers, is very dangerous. A woman is a nurse at heart, and if she has an old man near her, she is always ready to interpret his every wish, to run and bring him what he needs. So, little by little, this old man doesn't do anything any more, he stays in his armchair, he doesn't move any more and he becomes a dumb old man. If, on the other hand, the old man is forced to do things for himself, make his own bed, go out, light the cooker, sometimes burn himself, he will live ten years longer.

He died on 29 November 2010 at the age of 95. He killed himself by jumping from a window of the San Giovanni Hospital in Rome, where he had been admitted a few days earlier for prostate cancer in the terminal stage[30][31] He had two daughters, Martina (1967) and Ottavia (1974), from Antonella Salerni. He had a third daughter, Rosa (1988), from his last companion Chiara Rapaccini.[32]

He was an outspoken atheist.[33]






  1. ^ a b Maria Coletti (2001). Mario Monicelli. Fondazione Pesaro Nuovo Cinema Onlus..
  2. ^ Mario Monicelli (1986). L'arte della commedia. Edizioni Dedalo..
  3. ^ Mario Monicelli, L'arte della commedia, a cura di Lorenzo Codelli, Tullio Pinelli, Edizioni Dedalo, 1986, ISBN 88-220-4520-3, p. 16
  4. ^ Mario Monicelli, L'arte della commedia, a cura di Lorenzo Codelli, Tullio Pinelli, Edizioni Dedalo, 1986, ISBN 88-220-4520-3, p. 14
  5. ^ Maria Coletti, Francesco Crispino e Ivelise Perniola (a cura di), Mario Monicelli, Pesaro, Fondazione Pesaro Nuovo Cinema Onlus, 2001, p. V
  6. ^ "Mario Monicelli obituary". London, UK. 30 November 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2010.
  7. ^ Mario Monicelli, L'arte della commedia, a cura di Lorenzo Codelli, Tullio Pinelli, Edizioni Dedalo, 1986, ISBN 88-220-4520-3, p. 19
  8. ^ Mario Monicelli, L'arte della commedia, a cura di Lorenzo Codelli, Tullio Pinelli, Edizioni Dedalo, 1986, ISBN 88-220-4520-3, p. 20
  9. ^ Mario Monicelli, L'arte della commedia, a cura di Lorenzo Codelli, Tullio Pinelli, Edizioni Dedalo, 1986, ISBN 88-220-4520-3, p. 21
  10. ^ Moliterno, Gino. A to Z of Italian Cinema, Scarecrow Press, 2009 p.150
  11. ^ Mario Monicelli's Official site
  12. ^ "Tragic death of film director". italymag. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 24 November 2010.
  13. ^ Mario Monicelli, L'arte della commedia, a cura di Lorenzo Codelli, Tullio Pinelli, Edizioni Dedalo, 1986, ISBN 88-220-4520-3, p. 17-18
  14. ^ Mario Monicelli, L'arte della commedia, Lorenzo Codelli ed., Edizioni Dedalo, 1986, ISBN 88-220-4520-3, p. 22
  15. ^ Maria Coletti, Francesco Crispino e Ivelise Perniola (eds), "Mario Monicelli", Pesaro, Fondazione Pesaro Nuovo Cinema Onlus, 2001, page VI
  16. ^ Mario Monicelli morto suicida a Roma, Il Corriere della Sera, 10 november 2010
  17. ^ Maria Luisa Agnese, "Monicelli, tutto a modo suo: vita e morte di una coscienza critica pop", Obituary, Corriere della Sera, 27 november 2020
  18. ^ a b Vanity Fair Italy, 7 June 2007, page 146
  19. ^ "The 31st Academy Awards (1959) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  20. ^ "The 32nd Academy Awards (1960) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  21. ^ Carlo Troilo, Mario Monicelli, anche mio fratello scelse di morire come lui, Il Fatto Quotidiano, 29 november 2020
  22. ^ "The 41st Academy Awards (1969) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 15 November 2011.
  23. ^ "Berlinale Archive 1976". Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  24. ^ Gian Piero Brunetta, Guida alla storia del cinema italiano (1905–2003), Torino, Einaudi, 2003
  25. ^ Ivana Delvino, I film di Mario Monicelli, Gremese, 2008, ISBN 978-88-8440-477-0
  26. ^ "Berlinale Archive 1982". Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  27. ^ "Berlinale: 1994 Prize Winners". Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  28. ^ "21st Moscow International Film Festival (1999)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 22 March 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  29. ^ Maria Luisa Agnese, "Monicelli, tutto a modo suo: vita e morte di una coscienza critica pop", Obituary, Corriere della Sera, 27 november 2020
  30. ^ "Mario Monicelli morto suicida a Roma" (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. 29 November 2010. Retrieved 29 November 2010.
  31. ^ Roston, Michael (29 November 2010). "Mario Monicelli, Italian Director, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2010.
  32. ^ "Google Traduttore". 30 November 2010. Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  33. ^ " – L'articolo richiesto 
    non è al momento disponibile"
    . Archived from the original on 22 October 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2017.

External links

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