Six or seven years ago I began to assemble a list of the greatest lead performances in feature films, and Monica Vitti in L’Avventura was one of them, you bet.

The names that that came to mind off the top of my head were James Gandolfini in The Sopranos, Geza Rohrig in Son of Saul, Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront and The Godfather, Amy Schumer in Trainwreck (I’m dead serious), George Clooney in Michael Clayton, Gary Cooper in High Noon, George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove, Mia Farrow in Broadway Danny Rose, Lee Marvin in Point Blank, Alan Ladd in Shane, Brad Pitt in Moneyball, Marilyn Monroe in Some like It Hot, Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast and Betrayal, Jean Arthur in Only Angels Have Wings, Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton, Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and, last but not least, Vitti in…aww, hell, her entire Michelangelo Antonioni travelogue.

After 90 years and 2 months on the planet earth, Vitti has left for realms beyond. I’m very sorry but then again she really lived a life, particularly during her ultimate star-power and mesmerizing collaboration years with the great Antonioni — a five-year exploration comprised of L’Avventura (’60), La Notte (’61), L’Eclisse (62) and Red Desert (’64).

Were it not for this five-year chapter, we wouldn’t this day be praising Vitti to the heavens. She “lives” today because of Antonioni, and a significant reason for his own exalted early-to-mid-’60s rep is due to — owned by — Vitti’s allure.

In her Antonioni films Vitti always seemed to be thinking “is this all there is?” Or “my God, there’s so little nutrition…I’m sinking into quicksand, withering away…so little in the way or sparkle and joy…nearly every waking minute I’m consumed by the glammy blues.”

Yes, she laughed and loved in L’Ecclisse, but only briefly and anxiously and in a sense ironically. The African tribal dance sequence was the exception — a spoof, of course, but lively and sexy.

Born in 1931, Vitti was 28 or 29 at the beginning of her Antonioni period and 33 when their collaboration ended — no spring chicken even at the start.

From Adam Bernstein’s Washington Post obit: “Her willowy physique, husky voice, full lips and mane of sunkissed blond hair gave her a raw sensual appeal. But Antonioni cast her against type in a cycle of acclaimed films about emotional detachment and spiritual barrenness. He made her the personification of glamorous malaise.”

Take L’Avventura, for one example. It’s about wealthy Italians wandering about in a state of gloomy drifting, anxious and vaguely bothered and frowning a good deal of the time.

The movie is about the absence of whole-hearted feeling, and it never diverts from this. If there’s a moment in which Vitti conveys even a hint of serenity in her intimate scenes with Gabriele Ferzetti, it barely registers. I don’t remember a single shot in which Ferzetti smiles with even a hint of contentment.

From “Red Desert Return“: “I saw Red Desert for the first time in 2015. I know the Antonioni milieu, of course, and had read a good deal about it over the years, so I was hardly surprised to discover that it has almost no plot. It has a basic situation, and Antonioni is wonderfully at peace with the idea of just settling into that without regard to story.

“And for that it seemed at least ten times more engrossing than 80% or 90% of conventional narrative films I see these days, and 87 times better than the majority of bullshit superhero films.

Vitti plays a twitchy and obviously unstable wife and mother who’s been nudged into a kind of madness by the industrial toxicity around her, and Richard Harris is an even-mannered German businessman visiting smelly, stinky Ravenna. The film is about industrial sprawl and poisoned landscapes and a lot of standing around and Vitti’s neurotic gibberish and a certain caught-in-the-mud mood that holds you like a drug, specifically like good opium.

“Each and every shot in Red Desert (the dp is Carlo di Palma, whom Vitti later fell in love with) is quietly breathtaking. It’s one of the most immaculate and mesmerizing ugly-beautiful films I’ve ever seen. The fog, the toxins, the afflictions, the compositions.”