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Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Life and Work of Monica Bellucci


Monica Bellucci as Malèna
Born in Umbria in 1964, Monica Bellucci is one of the most recognizable faces of international cinema. But she didn't always have her sights set on the spotlight. She went to college to study law and modeled to pay her tuition. Her success in the fashion world coupled with the offers that were pouring in to appear on the big screen eventually took over, changing her fate.

Bellucci made her on-screen debut in the 1990 television movie, "Vita coi figli." Just two years later, she scored her first American role in Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula." 

In addition to her native language, she speaks fluent English and French, which has made for a smooth transition from Italian to international cinema. Stateside, she has acted in blockbusters such as "The Matrix-Reloaded,"  "The Passion of the Christ" and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." She has also appeared in several French films, and was married to French actor Vincent Cassel. She costarred with him in the 2003 avant-garde film, "Irréversible." Set in Paris, the film follows two men as they attempt to seek revenge for a brutal attack on a woman, Alex, portrayed by Bellucci. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the film when it was released due to the extreme violence in two scenes. Film Critic Roger Ebert declared it unwatchable because of those scenes.

The role that really called on Bellucci's acting skills and proved that she was more than just another model-turned-actress was Giuseppe Tornatore's 2000 film, "Malèna." She took on the title role of a beautiful widow in small town Sicily during World War II. Her character contends with the men of the village constantly chasing her while the women torment her out of jealousy.

In 2005, she starred in Bertrand Blier's French rom-com, "Combien tu m'aimes?" (How Much Do  You Love Me?), the story of an office worker who wins the lottery and hires a beautiful prostitute (Bellucci) to live with him. The film also features Gerard Depardieu and Bernard Campan as the men smitten with her.

Bellucci had a small but pivotal role in Rebecca Miller’s 2009 “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.” Her character, Gigi, is an eccentric, wealthy art collector. When her husband announces that he has fallen in love with another woman, she invites them both to lunch and delivers a pretty big bang of a surprise. The film is a rom-com, coming-of-age story for a middle-aged coming to terms with a few skeletons in her closet. Although Bellucci doesn't have a lot of screen time, I always enjoy seeing Italian actors in English-speaking roles. Plus, the stellar ensemble cast that includes Robin Wright, Alan Arkin, Winona Ryder and Maria Bello was a joy to watch.

In this clip that I recorded at the 2015 Rome Film Festival, Bellucci talks about her role in Guy Édoin's "Ville-Marie," which premiered there. Bellucci plays the role of an actress and mother who takes a role in Montreal in order to reconnect with her estranged son. The two end up witnessing a tragic automobile accident and become emotionally connected to the paramedic who showed up to the scene.



Also in 2015, at the age of 50, Bellucci played the role of an Italian seductress opposite Daniel Craig in "Spectre." As James Bond is forced to visit his past, scenes were shot amid the stunning backdrop of the Eternal City, making Bellucci feel right at home.

Although she loves her craft, these days she is content with skipping red carpet appearances to stay home with her family. She was recently quoted as saying, "I am at a stage in my life where, if I don't go out, I don't feel I'm missing something. I get bored surrounded by people smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol. And I'm not so interested now in going to premieres or being photographed on the red carpet. I want to be with my daughter."

Motherhood hasn't slowed Bellucci down professionally as she continues to work on both sides of the Atlantic. Her next project, the television mini-series "Radical Eye: The Life and Times of Tina Modotti" is currently in pre-production. The series is based on the Udine-born photographer and activist Tina Modotti who died at the age of 45. She was a member of the Mexican Communist Party and hung around with the likes of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Argentinian poet Pablo Neruda. 

Due to her international appeal, many of Bellucci's films are available in the United States. Click on the titles below to stream the aforementioned films on Amazon, including a special interview with her, simply titled, "A Conversation with Monica Bellucci" in which she talks about her influences and versatility in working outside of Italy.

        

        

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