236 Mamma Roma

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Martha
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236 Mamma Roma

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Feb 12, 2005 9:10 pm

Mamma Roma

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Anna Magnani is Mamma Roma, a middle-aged prostitute who attempts to extricate herself from her sordid past for the sake of her son. Filmed in the great tradition of Italian neorealism, Mamma Roma offers an unflinching look at the struggle for survival in postwar Italy, and highlights director Pier Paolo Pasolini's lifelong fascination with the marginalized and dispossessed. Though banned upon its release in Italy for obscenity, today Mamma Roma remains a classic, featuring a powerhouse performance by one of cinema's greatest actresses and offering a glimpse at a country's most controversial director in the process of finding his style.

Disc Features

- New high-definition digital transfer, with restored image and sound, enhanced for widescreen televisions
- Three new interviews about director Pier Paolo Pasolini, featuring Bernardo Bertolucci, an assistant director to Pasolini on Accattone; Tonino Delli Colli, cinematographer on eleven of Pasolini’s fourteen films; and Enzo Siciliano, author of Pasolini: A Biography
- Pier Paolo Pasolini (1995), a 58-minute documentary by filmmaker Ivo Barnabò Micheli covering the career of the controversial artist
- La ricotta (1963), a 35-minute film by Pasolini starring Orson Welles as a director who sets out to make a film about the Passion of Jesus
- Original theatrical trailer
- Poster gallery
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition
- Plus: A 32-page booklet featuring excerpted interviews with Pasolini on Mamma Roma and La ricotta, and essays by novelist and culture critic Gary Indiana and Pasolini biographer Enzo Siciliano


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Matt
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#2 Post by Matt » Mon Aug 08, 2005 12:08 am

Janet Maslin's review from the New York Times:
Hell hath no fury like Mamma Roma, the virago played so stormily by Anna Magnani in Pier Paolo Pasolini's astonishing 1962 film. Along with its obvious echoes of Italian postwar neo-realism, including explicit references to works by Roberto Rossellini and Vittorio De Sica, the previously obscure "Mamma Roma" also seethes with the sensuality and dark iconoclasm that would mark Pasolini's subsequent career.

Indeed, beyond this film's stark visual beauty and its madly inappropriate Biblical references, there lies a murky, overheated sexual melodrama suggestive of Tennessee Williams, himself a great admirer of La Magnani's raw histrionic style. Here she plays a former prostitute who brings a feverish, unexamined intensity to the job of bringing up her sexually ripe adolescent son. The boy's destiny is thus shaped in fearsome ways by his mother's eroticism. Mamma Jocasta would have been more like it.

"Mamma Roma," which opens today at the Film Forum, is a fascinating rarity, a film not even presented at museum screenings in America until 1988. It was the second feature (after "Accatone") made by this protean and increasingly perverse film maker, poet, novelist and playwright, whose later, more feverish works included "The Decameron," "The Canterbury Tales" and "The Arabian Nights."

By the time of his murder in 1975, Pasolini's vision had reached the sordid excesses of "Salo," which has in recent months been the basis for an obscenity case against a Cincinnati video store that made the film available for rental. It was a long way to that film's scatological extremes from the relative restraint of "Mamma Roma."

Still under the influence of his neo-realist forbears, Pasolini conceived a central character resembling Ms. Magnani's Pina, the heroine of Rossellini's "Open City," who dies while pregnant at the end of that 1945 landmark but is essentially revived in 1962 as the mother of a teen-age son. Though her eruptive acting style is slightly tamed by Pasolini's meticulous, deliberate direction, Ms. Magnani has lost none of her witchy gusto in this role.

Mamma Roma is first seen delivering taunts at a country wedding, which Pasolini staged to resemble the Last Supper even though the bride is faintly grotesque and the groom is Carmine (Franco Citti), Mamma Roma's former pimp. With typical restraint, Mamma Roma makes this first appearance shepherding pigs in hats and mocking Italy's national anthem. The elegance of this film's beautiful black-and-white cinematography (by Tonino Delli Colli) is never matched by any corresponding delicacy to its drama.

"You laugh like a pair of bellows," one man at the wedding tells Mamma Roma, and it's true. She greets each development in this tempestuous story with a robust, mocking vitality that the film celebrates without question. And questions are certainly in order once Mamma Roma resumes contact with Ettore (Ettore Garofolo), the son she had to abandon and now chooses to guide toward respectability. Liberated from prostitution in fact if not in mannerisms, Mamma Roma now plans to sell produce in the marketplace and make a good life for her son.

Well. From their first moments in Rome together, with mother leading son in an ecstatic, prurient tango, "Mamma Roma" revels in the endless lurid nuances of its story. That they happen to contrast mightily with Pasolini's images of Mamma Roma and Ettore as Madonna and Christ is only one small part of this film's eccentricity. Shot either in velvety nighttime, where Mamma Roma is the queen of casual Roman decadence, or in sun-baked, midday landscapes that create an effortlessly torrid atmosphere, the story imprisons its characters in a world of temptation.

Ettore falls under the spell of a compliant young woman named Bruna, who can be had for the price of cheap jewelry and who also happily accommodates all the other young men Ettore has become friends with. The camera's meaningful appraisals of these sultry young men become part of the film's insinuating manner. Meanwhile, when the mother learns what her son has been up to, she exclaims, "That's why I made a boy!" and then persuades a prostitute to lure him away from Bruna. In this atmosphere, it's indeed hard for Pasolini to shape "Mamma Roma" as a story of righteousness and the hope for redemption. But he tries.

"Have you seen the Devil, or what?" someone asks Mamma Roma during the story. With her pitch-black hair, haggard eyes and bottomless well of emotion, Ms. Magnani suggests that she has seen things her audience can barely imagine, and that she struggles tirelessly against her own memories every day. In a couple of the film's remarkably stylized sequences, she strolls through the streets of Rome by night and recites the story of her life to whoever walks beside her, as if "Mamma Roma" were on the verge of becoming a work of musical theater. Pasolini's score for the film, incidentally, relies heavily on Vivaldi for the rich sense of forboding this story needs.

Beyond the excitingly overwrought Magnani, the film's cast consists mostly of voluptuous-looking nonprofessionals with the appropriately sinister air. (Mr. Citti, whose brother Sergio collaborated with Pasolini on the screenplay, spent time in jail while filming was under way.) Minor characters in the credits are variously listed as "thug," "pimp," "male prostitute" and so on. One familiar face is that of Lamberto Maggiorani, so stirringly memorable as the father in "The Bicycle Thief," who here plays a hospital patient robbed by Ettore as Mamma Roma's hopes for him prove futile. Only a film maker of Pasolini's dauntlessly operatic intensity could follow the boy's petty crime with imagery suggesting the Crucifixion.

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#3 Post by denti alligator » Thu Jan 19, 2006 3:14 pm

Having only seen Salo and The Gospel According to St. Matthew (indifferent to the former; absolutely in love with the latter), is this a good place to go next? I figured the extras might be a nice entry into the world of Pasolini too.

So... no one on the board likes this film?

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#4 Post by Lino » Sat Jan 21, 2006 10:33 am

This is a wonderful film, denti! Very much worth your time and money :wink: . If you like strong, raw female performances, Anna Magnani is the woman for you. Go ahead, rent it, buy it, borrow it - you'll love it!

BTW, do you read french?

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#5 Post by kinjitsu » Sat Jan 21, 2006 1:27 pm

denti alligator wrote:So... no one on the board likes this film?

Sorry denti, I've been meaning to say, yes, do indeed rent/buy Mamma Roma. It's a visually stunning film, and very moving too, with Magnani in one of her best performances, albeit, only slightly overwrought. If you rent, along with the other features, the delightful short, La ricotta on disc two is more than worthwhile. I borrowed the discs from my library on two occasions but decided that I couldn't live without it and so finally bought a copy.
Last edited by kinjitsu on Sat Jan 21, 2006 1:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#6 Post by denti alligator » Sat Jan 21, 2006 1:36 pm

Annie Mall wrote:BTW, do you read french?
Yes, why?

Thanks Annie and kinjitsu!

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#7 Post by Lino » Sat Jan 21, 2006 2:10 pm

denti alligator wrote:
Annie Mall wrote:BTW, do you read french?
Yes, why?
Here's why

I've got most of them and you just can't beat these French editions A/V and extras-wise. Trust me.

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#8 Post by denti alligator » Sat Jan 21, 2006 2:25 pm

Link doesn't seem to work, Annie. Is it just me?

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#9 Post by Lino » Sat Jan 21, 2006 3:22 pm

denti alligator wrote:Link doesn't seem to work, Annie. Is it just me?
Try this and then search for "Realisateur": Pasolini

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#10 Post by Jem » Thu Mar 09, 2006 2:57 pm

So... no one on the board likes this film?
Yes, loved it! Anna Magnani's wonderful performance alone makes this a blind buy.

The score by Carlo Rustichelli is very beautiful too.

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#11 Post by DeathDealer » Sun Dec 17, 2006 7:46 pm

Anymore thoughts?

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#12 Post by Steven H » Sun Dec 17, 2006 7:52 pm

I bought this for La Ricotta only. After watching Mamma Roma, I stand by my original reason for purchasing. I don't have much to add as I watched the film over two years ago, but I believe there was some discussion on this film that was lost when the old board's server crashed.

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#13 Post by Lemmy Caution » Mon Dec 18, 2006 1:22 am

Mamma Roma is a powerful film. Well worth your time. Accatone makes a nice companion piece to MR, both in terms of themes and style. Hawks and The Sparrows is a lot more playful, but not very essential.
Last edited by Lemmy Caution on Sun Sep 27, 2009 3:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#14 Post by Tommaso » Mon Dec 18, 2006 6:34 am

Lemmy Caution wrote:Hawks and The Sparrows is alot more playful, but not very essential.
I disagree. I think "Hawks and Sparrows" is his first film in which he seriously begins to doubt the idea about the 'glorification' of the sub-proletariat, the clear cut class opposition that informs much of his former films, and in which he first tries to deal with the mythic/mythological aspects that become so prominent from "Oedipus Rex" on ("Il Vangelo" notwithstanding). It IS very playful, yes, but in this playfulnesses there is a very dark and thoughtful undercurrent. And the acting of Toto is priceless. I always found it much more gripping than "Mamma Roma", where I find the Christ symbolism in the end much too obvious and the main character somewhat clichéd. So much said, I of course also like "Mamma Roma", and would recommend it to anybody who is interested in Pasolini. But it is just a little less essential than his later films (excepting "Canterbury Tales"),and also less intense and severe than "Accatone".

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#15 Post by jbeall » Sun Jul 20, 2008 11:18 pm

I just rented this b/c I'm interested in watching Salo next month, and I was wonderfully surprised. I loved this film, esp. the tracking shots at night when Mamma Roma tells her life story to random passers-by. She's just so funny, so witty. While the whole film is great, and Magnani's performance is really amazing--what a husky, sexy voice!! (Eat your heart out Kathleen Turner!) Anyway, great film.

I haven't processed my thoughts re: Mamma Roma yet, but I was wondering if anybody had more to say about the juxtaposition of old Roman ruins with the modern prefab apartment buildings. Also, what to make of the final shot of the dome rising slightly above the surrounding buildings?

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Re: 236 Mamma Roma

#16 Post by psufootball07 » Thu Sep 24, 2009 11:05 am

Yeah I wasnt too sure either what to make of the last shot, I thought maybe she was looking down for her son to see if he was re-uniting with Bruna. It appears that he had returned but not let her know, but I really liked your analysis of the Rome.

Overall this was a film I thoroughly enjoyed, it had some very beautiful mise-en-scene (Mamma Roma talking with various people under the lights). After being extremely put off by Salo, I found Mamma Roma very intriguing to look for similar stylistic elements and themes throughout. Definitely appreciate what Pasolini did a little more, and I hope to see some of his films in the Collection soon.

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Re: 236 Mamma Roma

#17 Post by ando » Fri Apr 30, 2010 2:34 am

Magnani's stare at the dome puzzled me at first, too. Then I realized that, like many visual motifs repeated in the film, her gaze out of the window into the horizon is probably meant to represent her worldly progress - or material station in life. It's Pasolini's most biting criticism of the Italian pettite bourgois mentality. Mamma Ro' is obsessed with the trappings of the material world, even at the expense of her own integrity. By the time she finds herself face to face with "the view" she's always wanted her life is all but destroyed. Pasolini seems to be asking us, "What is the cost of such material and social approbation?"

I thought of the dome moments in Scorsese's The Departed as well, Michael. Scorsese uses Matt Damon's gaze to a similar purpose. But we feel that the dream of material success is Damon's (or his character's) desire. It doesn't represent a general critique of the pettite bourgeoisie the way that Mamma Roma's character does. In fact, by having Magnani represent several archetypal figures at once Pasolini is able to focus his intentions much more succinctly.

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Re: 236 Mamma Roma

#18 Post by dad1153 » Tue Sep 07, 2010 8:34 pm

Watched "Mamma Roma" over the weekend (TCM-HD DVR recording). As with "Salo" (his only other movie I've seen) I found myself admiring the symbolism of what Pasolini's camera has framed instead or liking or relating to its characters or locales (all clearly symbols of Italian society) within the movie's narrative, something I didn't have trouble with similar movies like "Nights of Cabiria." While he obviously cares deeply about the 'lesser' society types (outcasts, oppressed working-class poor, etc.) that he perceived were being paid lip-service to by the Italian ruling class (state and religious institutions) Pasolini's eye for aesthetics often ends up clouding what could have been great movie scenes (like Ettore's final moments) with religious iconography run amok. Anna Magnani is one fiery on-screen magnet that just grabs your attention (not so much when the other characters take over). I had a real-life Aunt like Mamma Roma minus the prostitution lifestyle: loud, full of life with a fire within her soul; R.I.P. :cry: I found myself sharing Mamma's joys (getting that fruit stand, looking at Ettore working from a distance, the bike ride, etc.) and angry/depressed when things didn't go her way (is it me or could Roma have lifted Franco Citti's Carmine over her head and body-slammed him easy?). I had to come to this forum to read other's thoughts about "Mamma Roma's" ending because, frankly, it left me cold and confused on first viewing. I've got to get me the Criterion versions of both "Mamma Roma" and "Salo" because, without the documentaries/bonus features, I feel that I'm missing out on the complete meaning of what Pasolini was trying to express with both films (particularly "Mamma Roma") that got lost (to me) because I couldn't get past the symbolism to look at the characters as such (except for Mamma Roma).

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#19 Post by Numero Trois » Tue Sep 07, 2010 11:16 pm

Janet Matlin wrote: Meanwhile, when the mother learns what her son has been up to, she exclaims, "That's why I made a boy!" and then persuades a prostitute to lure him away from Bruna. In this atmosphere, it's indeed hard for Pasolini to shape "Mamma Roma" as a story of righteousness and the hope for redemption. But he tries..
But he wasn't trying to make the story redemptive. Good Marxist that Pasolini is, the point is that Mamma Roma is fooling herself in thinking she can break out of her place in society. 'You can't make something from nothing,' the priest says to her.

Wasn't expecting this to be as good as it was. Not quite Pasolini's best, but pretty damn close.

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Re: 236 Mamma Roma

#20 Post by Michael » Wed Sep 08, 2010 7:21 am

I revisited the film over the weekend and found myself gaining a new reaction to the film. It was mostly cold. Pasolini made a mistake for not having instilled every single scene with Magnani because every scene without her, the film fell flat. The long strolls of Ettore and Bruna among the ruins and their friends elicited a giant snooze from me. Those characters never came alive to me and every time Magnani crashed into the frame, the film jump-started. I didn't care what Ettore did or if he died. Most parts were dreadfully lifeless and stale.

Pasolini clearly didn't know what to do with Magnani like Visconti did. Surely like Bette Davis, Magnani was the type of an artist best to light up the fire with one hand and Visconti knew better to make Bellissima work was by giving her the freedom to "run the show", only two quick scenes or three without Magnani. Because in other hands, especially directors like Spielberg, Bellissima would easily have been centered around the little girl, instead of the mom.

The following day after viewing Mamma Roma, I revisited Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers - a film I hadn't seen in a long long long time, another long film from Italy. I ended up completely staggered. I really want to discuss this film but save that for another thread.

After seeing Acattone, Mamma Roma, Taeroma and Salo recently, I have decided that Pasolini is not all that great. Visconti is the real maestro!

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Re: 236 Mamma Roma

#21 Post by accatone » Wed Sep 08, 2010 8:47 am

Michael wrote:I revisited the film…
I can see where you are coming from - i think Pasolini himself said in a TV interview (?) that it was a misstake giving the famous Magnani that role and that her performance in this film is a failure (in comparison to the non-professionals). I agree with that and would have loved to see a film without the hysterical Magnani (not doubt, i generally love her like everyone else) but only with the Raggazi di Vita. And even though i hate the term, i think it would have made the film much more authentic. Comparing Pasolini to Visconti is a "dead end" because what do they share at all?

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Re: 236 Mamma Roma

#22 Post by Michael » Wed Sep 08, 2010 9:58 am

accatone wrote: Comparing Pasolini to Visconti is a "dead end" because what do they share at all?
Well they were filmmakers, Italian, gay, and Marxist and worked with Anna Magnani.
But that was not my point. I just happened to watch Mamma Roma and Rocco and His Brothers the same weekend and I found the latter to be a staggering masterpiece - far away from Mamma Roma.

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Re: 236 Mamma Roma

#23 Post by Soothsayer » Wed Sep 08, 2010 1:17 pm

Michael wrote:
accatone wrote: Comparing Pasolini to Visconti is a "dead end" because what do they share at all?
Well they were filmmakers, Italian, gay, and Marxist and worked with Anna Magnani.
I really hope this statement was made in jest...the outlook between these two isn't very similar and using those factors for comparison seems quite inappropriate to either the career or Pasolini or Visconti.

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Re: 236 Mamma Roma

#24 Post by Michael » Wed Sep 08, 2010 1:42 pm

Soothsayer wrote:I really hope this statement was made in jest...the outlook between these two isn't very similar and using those factors for comparison seems quite inappropriate to either the career or Pasolini or Visconti.
Sure, the outlook is tremendously different between Visconti and Pasolini, two very different humans as every one of us has an unique outlook.

However I still think it's perfectly fine to compare those two. Being openly gay in the same Catholic country during the same era is one and to see how they expressed that through all their works is very fascinating. Homosexuality and its eroticism steam through both of their works. That may not be essential to you but it is to me and them.

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Re: 236 Mamma Roma

#25 Post by Soothsayer » Wed Sep 08, 2010 4:14 pm

Of course their homosexuality is a factor in both their careers. However, for all the reasons you are comparing them, there are many other factors to note their rather large differences. Not least of which was their upbringings and how each accepted/rejected theirs in their artistic work(this factor is *very* different for each filmmaker and went a very long way to dictating aspects of their work). I find leaving out this element will lead to large misunderstandings/misrepresentations of each filmmaker's works. Visconti would never have made Accattone, and Pasolini would have never made The Leopard, for instance...

Sorry to sway so far off-topic, but I find the random comparison between Mamma Roma and Rocco and His Brothers(and then, by proxy, the careers of Pasolini and Visconti) to be...off. Just to use a quick example, look at how each director used a different member of the family as their protagonist, and how that alone will severly alter the scruture/outlook of the film(the mother is the stronger will in Mamma Roma, certain sons, mainly Alain Delon, in Rocco and His Brothers). With that difference, that will open the chasm between outlooks/performance/message in each film, quite a bit.

Then, to go a bit further off-topic, the sheer scope between these two filmmakers is so different. Pasolini was never as long-winded(not a slight against Visconti), and that will surely alter one's affections for this or that filmmaker, and I find the comparison to be more personal taste than anything(and hey, obv. that's your perogative, I just find your grounds for criticizing Pasolini a bit hard to follow).

edit: I'm not sure where I said that either Visconti or Pasolini's homosexuality *doesn't* matter...I just found the laundry list of similarities kinda random(if true), like I said, for each similarity, you could list plenty of differences, as well...

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