Director Dino Risi, 91, an Oscar-nominated master of the Italian comedy who combined a light touch with a merciless look at the flaws of his compatriots, died yesterday in Rome, officials said.

Mr. Risi was acclaimed as a father of the Italian comedy for his ability to mix the funny with the tragic.

His comedies were a ferocious satire of habits and flaws of Italians, often featuring unflattering characters: the superficial charlatan, the cheating husband, the immoral father.

"I feel a great pain for his death. His movies were beautiful and funny," said actress Sophia Loren.

During a career that spanned decades, he worked with some of the finest Italian actors, including Loren, Vittorio Gassman and Alberto Sordi.

His hits include Poveri ma belli (Poor but Beautiful) in 1957, and Il Sorpasso (The Easy Life) in 1962, starring Gassman and Jean-Louis Trintignant as an improbable pair traveling toward a tragic end during an Italian summer.

In 1974, Mr. Risi directed Profumo di Donna, (Scent of a Woman), which received Oscar nominations for best foreign language movie and best adapted screenplay. A U.S. remake of the movie starring Al Pacino won Oscars in 1992.

Mr. Risi was awarded a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the Venice Film Festival in 2002, where he received a rousing ovation after a special screening of The Easy Life.

"This gave me a feeling I haven't felt for years," he said at the time. "This moved me, made me emotional."

- Associated Press