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10 June 2011

Ornella Muti

Beautiful Italian actress Ornella Muti (1955) often appeared in sexy Italian comedies and dramas, but she also worked for such major European directors as Marco Ferreri, Francesco Rosi and Volker Schlöndorff. English language audiences probably know her best as the sensuous Princess Aura in Flash Gordon (1980).

Ornella Muti
French postcard by Humour a a la Carte, Paris, no. ST-150.

The Best Filled Thing From Italy Since Ravioli
Ornella Muti was born in Rome in 1955 as Francesca Romana Rivelli, to a Neapolitan father and Estonian mother. She has an older sister, Claudia Rivera, who was a soap actress in the 1970’s. As a teenager, the Latin beauty modelled and she posed for illustrated novels. At 15, she made her film debut in the romantic melodrama La moglie più bella/The Most Beautiful Wife (1970, Damiano Damiani). In the following years she starred in such giallos (erotic thrillers) as Un posto ideale per uccidere/Oasis of Fear (1971, Umberto Lenzi) with Irene Papas, and erotic dramas as Appasionata/Passionate (1974, Gian Luigi Calderone) with Valentina Cortese. In Romanzo popolare/Come Home and Meet My Wife (1974, Mario Monicelli) she married her 33-year older godfather (Ugo Tognazi). Her international breakthrough was as the girlfriend of Gerard Depardieu in Marco Ferreri’s shocking psychological drama La dernière femme/The Last Woman (1976, Marco Ferreri) about a man who mutilates himself drastically when the custody of his nine-month old son is threatened. The role lead to more interesting films with well known directors including La Stanza Del Vescovo/The Bishop's Bedroom (1977, Dino Risi) opposite Ugo Tognazzi, Ritratto di Borghesia in Nero/Nest of Vipers (1977, Tonino Cervi) with Senta Berger, and I Nuovi Mostri/Viva Italia (1979, Mario Monicelli, Dino Risi, Ettore Scola) with Vittorio Gassman. The latter was a black comedy, comprised of nine short stories all related to the theme that most men are selfish cads. The film was nominated for the Oscar for Best Foreign film. In America the film was promoted by a poster with Muti in swimsuit and a critic’s quote: “Ornella Muti is the best filled thing from Italy since ravioli”. In France, Muti starred with Alain Delon in the crime thriller Mort d'un Pourri/Death of a Corrupt Man (1977, George Lautner).

Ornella Muti
Romanian postcard by Acin. Source: Veronique@Flickr.

Ornella Muti. Carte postale ACIN C.P.C.S. c-da 43139
Romanian postcard by Acin. Source: Veronique@Flickr.

Gorgeous But Deadly
Ornella Muti made her British film debut as Princess Aura in Flash Gordon (1980, Mike Hodges), based on the classic sci-fi strip. In the 1930’s, this strip had been the basis for a more straight-faced adventure serial. In the new Dino De Laurentiis production Flash's story was mined for exaggerated, cartoon humor by screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr., who had been a central figure in the similarly campy '60s Batman TV series. The sets are spectacular and the rock score by Queen is appropriately over-the-top. Although Flash Gordon is not a film to turn to for fine performances, Muti shines as the luscious princess of the planet Mongo who tries to lure the blonde hero (Sam J. Jones). IMDb reviewer colleran-2 writes: “Ornella Muti is simply unbelievable as Ming's gorgeous but deadly daughter. Replying to Flash's query as to whether he can use the telepathy machine to contact Dale with a perfectly candid, ‘If I showed you how. But I'm not going to’.” Back in Italy, she appeared with Adriano Celentano in the comedy Il bisbetico domato/The Taming of the Scoundrel (1980, Franco Castellano, Giuseppe Moccia), and with Giancarlo Giannini in the Russian-Italian drama La vita è bella/Life is Beautiful (1981, Grigori Chukhrai). Then followed one of Muti’s greatest successes, Storie di ordinaria follia/Tales of Ordinary Madness (1981, Marco Ferreri), an adaptation of Charles Bukowski's roman à clef Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness. Nathan Southern writes at AllRovi: “Ben Gazzara delivers a gutsy, four-barreled performance as skid-row poet and storyteller Charles Bukowski (rechristened Charles Serking onscreen) (...); he eventually falls for a prostitute (Muti) who can express her affection only via self-mutilation. Ferreri lets Bukowski's ribald humor flow throughout and exposes the dark erotic currents at the heart of the author's narratives. Laced with perverse, shocking imagery, this unbridled celebration of life's dark underbelly has been praised by critics such as The New Yorker's Pauline Kael and Playboy's Bruce Williamson for its ‘genuine audacity and risktaking’.” The film's success lead to the belated release of the Hollywood production Love and Money (1982, James Toback) with Muti prominent on the poster. The film had already been completed in 1980, but was shelved. She co-starred in Un amour de Swann/Swann in Love (1984, Volker Schlöndorf), an ambitious attempt to film a portion of Marcel Proust's epic novel Remembrance of Things Past with Jeremy Irons as Charles Swann. Television fans were treated to her formidable presence in the TV movie Casanova (1987, Simon Langton) featuring Richard Chamberlain. That year she also starred in the Gabriel García Márquez adaptation Cronaca di una morte annunciate/Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1987, Francesco Rosi) opposite Rupert Everett.

Ornella Muti
Postcard by CASA FILMULUI ACIN. Source: Veronique@Flickr.

Her Own Line of Jewellery
One of Ornella Muti’s most beautiful films is Wait Until Spring Bandini (1990, Dominique Deruddere), based on a novel by John Fante and produced by Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope production. This smallscale film follows the trials of the Bandini family as they try to struggle through hard times in 1920’s Colorado. Muti plays the anxious mother, wife of Joe Mantegna. Her other English language films include the Sylvester Stallone comedy Oscar (1991, John Landis) and another comedy flop Once Upon a Crime (1992, Eugene Levy) with John Candy. In Italy, she appeared in the historical comedy Il viaggio di Capitan Fracassa/Captain Fracassa's Journey (1990, Ettore Scola) with Vincent Perez, and loads of forgettable films. In France she fared better and appeared in the thriller L'Inconnu de Strasbourg/The Unknown of Strasbourg (1998, Valeria Sarmiento), director Lucas Belvaux's trilogy: Cavale/Trilogy: One (2002) - Un couple épatant/Trilogy: Two (2002) - Après la vie/Trilogy: Three (2002), and the comedy Les Bronzes 3: Amis Pour La Vie/Les Bronzes 3: Friends Forever (2006, Patrice Leconte), but is probably best known for a TV commercial of Giovanni Panzani pasta. Ornella Muti has been married twice, to Alessio Orano, her fellow actor in La moglie più bella/The Most Beautiful Wife (1975–1981), and Federico Facchinetti (1988–1996). Muti has three children. She has a daughter by Spanish film producer José Luis Bermúdez de Castro, Naike Rivelli (1974). She is also a model and actress and has a close resemblance to her mother. Muti has also a son, actor Andrea Facchinetti, and a second daughter, Carolina Facchinetti, both from her second marriage. In 1996 her grandchild Akash was born, daughter of Naike Rivelli. From 1998 till 2008, Muti lived with Stefano Piccolo, a plastic surgeon. Her latest fiancé is Fabrice Kerhervé. In 2008, Ornella Muti introduced her own line of jewellery. She opened new shops in Paris, Milan, Rome, Riga, Moscow and Almaty. She is also still active in the cinema. She appeared in Peter Greenaway’s The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 3: From Sark to the Finish (2003) with Roger Rees, The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: Vaux to the Sea (2004), and Peopling the Palaces at Venaria Reale (2007). Her latest release was the spaghetti western Doc West/Triggerman (2009, Terence Hill, Giulio Base) starring western icon Terence Hill and Paul Sorvino.


Trailer for La moglie più bella/The Most Beautiful Wife (1970). Source: Danios12345 (YouTube).


Trailer for Un posto ideale per uccidere/Oasis of Fear (1971). Source: zer0hal0 (YouTube).


Trailer for Flash Gordon (1980). Source: Humanoidity (YouTube).

Sources: Rovi, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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