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Italian director Luigi Comencini dies at 90

Italian director Luigi Comencini dies at 90

Director Luigi Comencini, whose legacy includes films exploring the mysterious world of childhood and Italian classic comedies showcasing stars like Gina Lollobrigida and Vittorio De Sica, has died, officials said Friday. He was 90.
"I remember him affectionately," said Lollobrigida, who starred in his 1953 "Pane, amore and fantasia" (bread, love and dreams). "It is truly a terrible loss," the actress told Italian state TV.
Comencini's films about children prompted comparisons to the works of French director Francois Truffaut for successfully drawing viewers into the fleeting, mysterious world of children.
Hallmarks of Comencini's career included his early, 1946 documentary "Bambini in citta'" (Children in the city); "Incompreso," (Misunderstood), 1966; and "Le avventure di Pinocchio," a 1972 TV film starring Lollobrigida as the Blue Fairy.
In directing some of Italy's most popular films since the end of World War II, Comencini converted the legacy of postwar neorealism into tender, ironic comedies, which featured top Italian comics like Toto' and Alberto Sordi.
Smash successes included the follow-up, a year later to "Pane, amore and fantasia," "Pane, amore and gelosia" (Bread, love and jealousy), again with Lollobrigida and De Sica, who was a comic star in addition to a successful neorealist director.
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni, a film buff who confirmed the death in a statement, called Comencini "a master, one of the great and unforgettable directors in the history of film."
The family said Comencini died after a long illness, the ANSA news agency reported.
Comencini, who earned a degree in architecture, began his career in film as a newspaper film critic, and was one of the founders of Cineteca Italian, the first film archive in Italy.
"We loved him, more than anything else, for his delicate and intense vision of the world of childhood," Veltroni said.
Comencini has been quoted as saying: "It's not that I liked children in a special way. It's that they are a kind of species onto themselves, generally defenseless and oppressed by adults. Through their eyes the world sees better."
Comencini is survived by his wife and four daughters, Veltroni said.
Two of his daughters, Cristina and Francesca, are movie directors.
"Comencini was a rather introverted person, like me," Claudia Cardinale was quoted by ANSA as saying. "And so we felt very good together," said Cardinale, who was the title character in "Ragazza di Bube" (Bube's girl), a successful 1963 film drawn from Italian literature. "It was a very beautiful experience to work with him, because he was a truly incredible man, sweet, gentle."
Among his works was the 1991 "Marcellino pane e vino" (Marcellino bread and wine), a remake of the 1955 film by Budapest-born director Ladislao Vajda, about an orphan who grows up in a monastery.
He was honored with a career Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 1987. But Comencini brushed off accolades, calling himself an "artisan of cinema."
"Pane, amore e fantasia" won a Silver Bear award at the Berlin film festival.