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  Mamma Roma Mother Love
Year: 1962
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Stars: Anna Magnani, Ettore Garofalo, Franco Citti, Silvana Corsini, Luisa Loiano, Paolo Volponi, Luciano Gonini, Vittorio La Paglia, Piero Morgia, Lanfranco Ceccarelli, Marcello Sorrentino, Sandro Meschino, Franco Tovo, Paquale Ferrarese, Leandro Santarelli
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Some years ago, the ex-prostitute known to everyone as Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani) attended a wedding, but took over the occasion somewhat by bringing in some dressed up pigs as a joke about some of the guests, then proceeded to sing very loudly about her former pimp and how happy she was to be rid of him. What she wanted to do now was look after her young son, but it would be a few years before she was able to settle down with him, and teenaged Ettore (Ettore Garofalo) was noticeably wary about this big personality. But would she be enough to protect him?

Anna Magnani was, and still is to some extent, a much beloved actress in Italy, so for director Pier Paolo Pasolini's second film he was keen to work with her, casting her at the head of a group of non-professionals to lend some dramatic weight to their more naturalistic style. Not that the amateurs had much choice in how they performed, not having had any training really, but Pasolini, as with many directors before him, was left in such a reverent frame of mind that his leading lady was allowed to run rampant over his story, being an actress who never felt that one hundred and ten percent was anything but the barest minimum to offer whatever production she appeared in.

It's interesting to note that Magnani had her training in comedy, because she approached drama in a similar way, and that way was as full-blooded as possible, as if the great effort that went into securing big laughs was equal to the effort involved in bringing the audience to tears. If you can tolerate that method, then this, one of her tragically-themed works, would be precisely what you wanted to see, though for others they may leave the film feeling exhausted simply having watched her for an hour and three quarters. Indeed, such were her histrionics that she overshadowed Pasolini's theme of the eulogising of the poor - for any of her scenes this looked more like the celebration of Anna Magnani, though she was so forceful that you did tend to miss her when she wasn't on screen.

In those sequences we concentrated on Ettore and his doomed attempts to live up to his mother's hopes and dreams for him, which were basically don't get mired in the criminal underworld like the one she escaped from. He does try to hold down a job, get a nice girl, all that, but the company he mixes with have no such illusions that their lives are headed for anything but grabbing what they can when they can, and to hell with everyone else. Mamma is such a strong presence that you can understand why she would have to orchestrate her son's life to the degree she does just to ensure it goes the way she wishes, but Pasolini obviously sensed that his kind of drama was not going to allow her to get away with that, so don't expect to be left particularly cheered up. Yet some can discover a transcendence in the suffering of Mamma Roma, and certainly Tonino Delli Colli's gleaming black and white photography went quite some way to manufacturing a near-religious mood of flagellation; others may find it hard work.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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