Versatile Italian director and screenwriter Alberto Lattuada, who poignantly depicted changing social and sexual customs in postwar Italy, died in Rome July 3 after a long illness. He was 90.
Milan native, the son of a prominent composer, Lattuada, still a teen, began his film industry career as a set decorator while studying architecture. Thereafter, his moniker on the set was “the Architect.”
During the 1930s, Lattuada worked as a screenwriter, wrote poetry and contributed antifascist articles to controversial periodicals.
A dedicated film buff from the outset, Lattuada founded Italy’s national film archives, the Cineteca Italiana, in 1940 with Mario Ferrari and Luigi Comencini.
He debuted as a helmer in 1942 with the 19th century-set costume drama “Giacomo the Idealist,” about the torment of a young woman raped by a village nobleman. This indictment of Italy’s oppressive establishment was the first of more than 30 pictures Lattuada made over the course of four decades, several of which centered on sexual mores.
In 1946, mixing neorealist ingredients with Hollywood gangster movie flavor, Lattuada made “The Bandit,” the tale of a WWII prison-camp survivor who returns from Germany to Turin and becomes a bordello-based mobster.
In 1950, he gave Federico Fellini, then a screenwriter, his first break as a helmer, picking Fellini as co-director of “Variety Lights,” a portrayal of a traveling vaudeville troupe, which Lattuada and Fellini co-wrote.
Lattuada in 1951 scored his greatest commercial success with “Anna,” a drama about the conflict between the flesh and the spirit in which Anna Magnani plays a former nightclub entertainer who becomes a nun.
In 1960, he created a stir with “Sweet Deceits,” starring Catherine Spaak, in her screen debut, as a love-struck 17-year-old who observes other lovers while wondering if she is ready to lose her virginity.
Lattuada also ruffled feathers with the 1974 “Bambina,” in which Teresa Ann Savoy plays a sex-obsessed adolescent, and “Stay as You Are,” a 1978 romance revolving around a young Nastassja Kinski and Marcello Mastroianni, who fears he might be her father.
Having turned to television in the 1980s, Lattuada made the 1985 Emmy-winning mini “Christopher Columbus,” produced by pubcaster RAI.
He was honored with a lifetime achievement David di Donatello Award in 1994.
He is survived by his wife, actress Carla Del Poggio.
— Nick Vivarelli