Monicelli’s films captured Italy’s flaws, sins

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Monicelli was born in Viareggio, a seaside town in Tuscany, on May 15, 1915.

His first notable work came in the late 1940s when he co-directed Toto in a number of successful movies, including the bittersweet “Guardie e Ladri” (known as “Cops and Robbers”) in 1951.

The 1963 movie “I Compagni” (“The Organizer”), starring Mastroianni as a professor stirring up unionism in industrial northern Italy, won Monicelli, who also co-wrote the film, an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay.

Another Academy Award nomination for best foreign language movie came for “La Ragazza con la Pistola” (known as “Girl with a Pistol”), released five years later and starring Monica Vitti as a Sicilian girl traveling to swinging London to kill her unfaithful lover.

Over the course of a career that spanned five decades and over 60 films, Monicelli collected some huge hits.

“L’Armata Brancaleone” (“For Love and Gold”), released in 1966, follows the adventures of an unlikely group of men in the Middle Ages led by a pompous knight played by Gassman in one of his most famous roles.

In the mid-1970s, “Amici Miei” (known as “My Friends”) again highlights Monicelli’s skills in mixing humor and bitterness in a tale of middle-aged friends who spend their lives organizing sophisticated pranks as a way to deal with failure, loneliness and the prospect of death.

Years later, another critically acclaimed and hugely successful movie, “Il Marchese del Grillo,” depicted the life of a decadent aristocrat in 19th-century Rome.

Monicelli looked at female friendship in a movie about the role of women in today’s family and society, “Speriamo Che Sia Femmina” (“Let’s Hope It’s a Girl”), with an all-star cast including Catherine Deneuve, Liv Ullman and Stefania Sandrelli.

Referring to the director’s suicide, Sandrelli told the Italian news agency ANSA that “knowing Mario, this was for him an extreme gesture of freedom, of anti-conformism.” Italian newspapers said Monicelli’s own father had committed suicide decades before.

News reports said Monicelli had been in and out of the hospital for years for prostate cancer. Earlier reports said he was being treated for pancreatic problems.

Relatives said they would hold a wake Wednesday in the Rome neighborhood where Monicelli lived so residents could pay their respects, but there would be no funeral.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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