MoMA retrospective features two dozen Cardinale classics

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New York’s Museum of Modern Art paid tribute to actress Claudia Cardinale in February with a retrospective of 23 films, including 17 restorations. The collaboration between MoMA and Cinecittà in Rome drew audiences to the heart of Manhattan to watch a treasure trove of beloved cinema classics. Cardinale’s daughter, Claudia Squitieri, introduced the first film of the series, Luigi Comencini’s 1963 “La ragazza di Bube” (Bebo’s Girl), which was followed by the new documentary, “Un Cardinale donna” by Manuel Maria Perrone.

Born in Tunisia in 1938 to Sicilian parents, Cardinale attended elementary school in the ancient city of Carthage. Her first cinematic experience came when she participated in the making of a short film with a former classmate, French director René Vautier. The film was presented at the Berlin Film Festival and generated enough buzz to get her noticed by director Jacques Baratier, who cast her opposite Omar Sharif in his 1958 film “Goha.” Shortly thereafter, she entered and won a beauty contest in which the prize was a trip to the Venice Film Festival. There, she was discovered by Italian film producers and offered a scholarship to Rome’s Experimental Center of Cinematography. She attended the renowned film school for just a few months before returning to Tunisia due to the language barrier. She spoke French, Tunisian, Arabic and Sicilian dialect but it wasn’t until she was cast for Italian films that she began to seriously study the Italian language.

Cardinale worked on a number of iconic films, including Mario Monicelli’s comedy “I soliti ignoti” (The Big Deal on Madonna Street), which stars Vittorio Gassman, Totò and Marcello Mastroianni. Two of her biggest roles came in 1963 with Luchino Visconti’s period drama, “Il gattopardo” (The Leopard), which has been referred to as Italy’s version of “Gone With the Wind,” and Federico Fellini’s “8 ½,” the first role in which Cardinale was allowed to use her own voice. In past films, her voice was dubbed because it was considered horse and deep, not necessarily in tune with her soft, feminine persona.

Cardinale built an impressive career through the decades and has stayed active in cinema through the years, with her most recent release in 2022. MoMA’s retrospective was a beautiful homage to the legend that Cardinale has become. If you weren’t able to attend in person, several of the films are available to stream online. Certainly, they don’t compare to seeing a restored version on the big screen, but even still, they are epic works that have stood the test of time.

“Il bell’Antonio” (Handsome Antonio)
Directed by Mauro Bolognini, 1960
To watch on Criterion Channel, click here.

“Rocco e i suoi Fratelli” (Rocco and His Brothers)
Directed by Luchino Visconti, 1960
To watch on Criterion Channel, click here.

“Il Gattopardo” (The Leopard)
Directed by Luchino Visconti, 1963
To watch on Amazon Prime, click here.

“The Professionals”
Directed by Richard Brooks, 1966
To watch on Amazon Prime, click here.

“Once Upon a Time in the West”
Directed by Sergio Leone, 1968
To watch on Amazon Prime, click here.

“Il magnifico cornuto” (The Magnificent Cuckold)
Directed by Antonio Pietrangeli, 1964
To watch on Amazon Prime, click here.

“Don’t Make Waves”
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick, 1967
To watch on Amazon Prime, click here.

“Otto e mezzo” (8 ½)
Directed by Federico Fellini, 1963
To watch on Criterion Channel, click here.

About Jeannine Guilyard

Jeannine Guilyard is a longtime correspondent for Fra Noi and the Italian-American community newspaper in Rochester, N.Y. She has also contributed to the Italian Tribune of New Jersey, Italian Tribune of Michigan and L'Italo Americano of Southern California. Jeannine wrote and directed the short film "Gelsomina," which was selected for the Screenings Program of the 59th Venice Film Festival, and she won Emmy and Peabody awards as an editor of ABC's "Special Report" following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeannine is also a writer and editor for Italian Cinema Today, a publication and blog she founded in 2005 to bridge culture between New York and Italy. Follow her on Instagram at Italianartcinema and on Twitter at @ItaloCinema2day.

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