For Reel

Mamma Roma (1962)
March 27, 2012, 1:41 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

Some critics assess that, had Anna Magnani and her child survived Roberto Rossellini’s Open City, they might have grown to be the mother and son of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Mamma Roma. The parallels with Rossellini’s effort are not incidental – Pasolini was a great admirer of the neorealist’s work, and images such as the final landscape of Rome are reflective of what was depicted in the landmark of Italian cinema. As deeply cynical as Mamma Roma is, however, the root of evil is not found within any political forces, but rather in the fallibility of man without God. For the young character of Ettore, religion becomes the basis of a sexual perversion. The girl he admires wears a white band in her black hair that makes her resemble a nun, and in one particularly erotic moment he stares at her cleavage, presumably ignoring the cross that hangs between her breasts. To say Pasolini is denigrating these apparent atheists would be excessive, however – they are simply victims of a world that has lost its way. No matter what Mamma Roma’s efforts are in reforming herself and providing a better life for her son, the unjust permanence of the class system proves too powerful to overcome. Critic P. Adams Sitney observed, “In Pasolini’s first films, upward mobility is a descent into hell.” Anna Magnani, who would later admit that she was unhappy with her performance, is the reason to see the picture – it becomes an operatic melodrama of high order thanks to her passionate, loud characterization of the prostitute earth-mother. He relationship with Ettore – clearly an Oedipal one – is often touching.

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