08 September 2016

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
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Ornella Muti
French postcard, 1982, sent by mail in 1985. Photo: Angelo Frontoni.

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

Ornella Muti
French postcard in the series Collection Cinéma Couleur by Editions La Malibran, Paris / Nancy, no. MC 34. Photo: Georges Pierre. Publicity still for Un amour de Swann/Swann in Love (Volker Schlöndorff, 1983).

The Best Filled Thing From Italy Since Ravioli

Ornella Muti was born in Rome in 1955 as Francesca Romana Rivelli, to a Neapolitan father, a journalist, and an Estonian mother, a sculptor. She has an older sister, Claudia Rivera, who was a soap actress in the 1970s.

As a teenager, the beauty with the cat-like blue eyes modelled and posed for illustrated novels. At 15, she made her film debut in the romantic melodrama La moglie più bella/The Most Beautiful Wife (Damiano Damiani, 1970).

In the following years she starred in such Giallos (Italian erotic thrillers) as Un posto ideale per uccidere/Oasis of Fear (Umberto Lenzi, 1971) with Irene Papas, and erotic dramas as Appasionata/Passionate (Gian Luigi Calderone, 1974) with Valentina Cortese. In Romanzo popolare/Come Home and Meet My Wife (Mario Monicelli, 1974) she married her 33-year older godfather (Ugo Tognazi).

Her international breakthrough was as the girlfriend of Gérard Depardieu in Marco Ferreri’s shocking psychological drama La dernière femme/The Last Woman (Marco Ferreri, 1976) 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 (Dino Risi, 1977) opposite Ugo Tognazi, Ritratto di Borghesia in Nero/Nest of Vipers (Tonino Cervi, 1977) with Senta Berger, and in France, Muti starred with Alain Delon in the crime thriller Mort d'un Pourri/Death of a Corrupt Man (George Lautner, 1977).

I Nuovi Mostri/Viva Italia (Mario Monicelli, Dino Risi, Ettore Scola, 1979) with Vittorio Gassman, 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”.

Ornella Muti
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

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

Ornella Muti
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin, no. c-da 43 139.

Ornella Muti
Romanian postcard by Casa Filmului Acin.

Gorgeous But Deadly

Ornella Muti made her British film debut as Princess Aura in Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges, 1980), based on the classic space opera adventure comic strip by Alex Raymond. In the 1930s, this comic 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 1960s Batman TV series. The sets are spectacular and the rock score by Queen is appropriately over-the-top.

Ornella Muti shines as the luscious princess of the planet Mongo who tries to lure the blonde hero (Sam J. Jones). IMDb reviewer colleran-2: “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 (Franco Castellano, Giuseppe Moccia, 1980), and with Giancarlo Giannini in the Russian-Italian drama La vita è bella/Life is Beautiful (Grigori Chukhrai, 1981).

Then followed one of Muti’s greatest successes, Storie di ordinaria follia/Tales of Ordinary Madness (Marco Ferreri, 1981), an adaptation of Charles Bukowski's roman à clef Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness. Nathan Southern at AllMovie: “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.”

The film's success lead to the belated release of the Hollywood production Love and Money (James Toback, 1982) 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 (Volker Schlöndorf, 1984), 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 could see her in the TV movie Casanova (Simon Langton, 1987) featuring Richard Chamberlain. That year she also starred in the Gabriel García Márquez adaptation Cronaca di una morte annunciate/Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Francesco Rosi, 1987) opposite Rupert Everett.

Ornella Muti
Big East-European postcard by VEB Progress Film-Verleih, Berlin, no. 8/82.

Ornella Muti
Italian postcard by Associazione Italiana Editori. Photo: Coll. Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Torino.

Ornella Muti
French postcard by Travelling Editions, Paris, no. CP 190.

Ornella Muti
French collectors card in the series 'Portrait de Stars; L'encyclopédie du Cinéma' by Edito Service, 1991. Photo: SIPA. Caption: Ornella Muti, 1980, Italie.

Her Own Line of Jewellery

One of Ornella Muti’s most beautiful films is Wait Until Spring Bandini (Dominique Deruddere, 1990), 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 1920s Colorado. Muti plays the anxious mother, wife of Joe Mantegna.

Her other English language films include the Sylvester Stallone comedy Oscar (John Landis, 1991) and another comedy flop Once Upon a Crime (Eugene Levy, 1992) with John Candy. In Italy, she appeared in the historical comedy Il viaggio di Capitan Fracassa/Captain Fracassa's Journey (Ettore Scola, 1990) 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 (Valeria Sarmiento, 1998), 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 (Patrice Leconte, 2006), but Ornella Muti 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). Naike 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 first grandchild Akash was born, a son of Naike. A second grandson named Alessandro followed from Carolina. From 1998 till 2008, Muti lived with Stefano Piccolo, a plastic surgeon. Since 2008, her partner has been 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). She co-starred with Western icon Terence Hill and Paul Sorvinoin  the Spaghetti Western Doc West/Triggerman (Terence Hill, Giulio Base, 2008) and was part of the ensemble cast of Woody Allen's mediocre romantic comedy To Rome with Love (Woody Allen, 2012).

In 2015, an Italian court sentenced Muti to eight months in prison or pay a fine of 30,000 euros for faking a medical certificate and skipping a play in which she was performing in 2010, to have dinner with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and several celebrities at a charity event held in St Petersburg, Russia.

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

Trailer for Flash Gordon (1980). Source: PickOfTheFlicks Tony (YouTube).

Compilation of scenes from Storie di ordinaria follia/Tales of Ordinary Madness (1981). Source: Gianfranco Firriolo (YouTube).

Trailer for Wait Until Spring Bandini (1990). Source: Ximon NL (YouTube).

Sources: AllMovie, MyMovies.It (Italian), Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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