After many years working in the streets of Roma, the middle-age whore Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani) saves money to buy an upper class apartment, a fruit stand and retires from the prostitution....
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Pier Paolo Pasolini
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After many years working in the streets of Roma, the middle-age whore Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani) saves money to buy an upper class apartment, a fruit stand and retires from the prostitution. She brings her teenage son Ettore (Ettore Garofolo), who was raised alone in the country, to live with her, and Ettore becomes her pride and joy. However, the boy that does not want to study or work, joins to idle friends, has a crush on a bitch, and Mamma Roma uses her best but limited efforts to straight Ettore and make him an honest man. However, her past haunts her with tragic consequences.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
At the films premiere in the Quattro Fontane Cinema (Rome, 22nd September 1962), Mr. Pier Paolo Pasolini was attacked by fascists who protested against the film. See more »
When Mamma Roma removes Clementina's veil and puts it on her own head, the camera cuts to Carmine's reaction. Next to him, we can see the sides of the veil still on Clementina's head. See more »
There was a neighbor of ours, a rich old man with loads of money. He dressed like Robespierre. He had a mustache and cane, like he was a king. You know how he made his money? Under fascism. Mussolini told him, "Build a district for the working class."
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often intense, in big and subtle ways, and filled with a technical prowess specific to Pasolini and Delli-Colli
Mamma Roma, not released in the US until over thirty years after its original release in Italy, has the ingredients of melodrama but is not filmed exactly in the way that should conjure the usual aesthetic. It's filmed like in a trance much of the time, as its characters move along like they know what self-made hell they're in, and while it's not done in a semi-documentary way it doesn't exactly have the heightened sense of true urgency that a Rossellini film had either. The location sort of makes it in part a psychological crutch to live in; the buildings and even the rural decay as being symbolic (arguably) of Roma and Ettore's rock and a hard place situation as well as their torn relationship. But what's captured best is the passion of the characters- even if it's not exactly always well performed passion or expression- and the hardened melancholy directed by the musical score.
One of the best things Pasolini has going for him with his production is Anna Magnani as the title role. She's the kind of warm-hearted prostitute that's become a cliché in some films, but she passes cliché to make Mamma Roma a sublime array of what a hard-bitten woman of 43, who's been working the streets her whole life since hitting pubescence, and while she can have moments of tenderness and happiness and real abandon with odd hilarity (i.e. that wedding scene at the beginning), it's all very brief as if on a leash via pimp Carmine (Citti). Magnani is, to use a cliché, the heart and soul of the picture, or at least the best kind, as her intent for being compassionate for her son is undying, even when she scorns him for doing nothing with his life. There's a great scene where she and Biancofiore, a fellow prostitute, watch Ettore at a waiter job, and she breaks into tears for seemingly no reason, but there is a reason for how simple but effectively Pasolini shows Ettore being really innocent and pure at work, even child-like in his demeanor.
And if Ettore- played by an actor with the same name in his first movie role (not to be cruel but you can tell)- is sort of two-dimensional as an angry and dysfunctional and aimless youth, after women and money but with no direction at all- is an intriguing weak link, Pasolini and DP Tonino Delli-Colli's skills at filming everything is top-notch. In fact, I'd say even having only seen a few of Pasolini's movies to be a very important film for him as director. He has a care in filming what are conventional scenes like a wedding (via close-ups, naturally), and in church scenes, and even with a specific shot of Rome used more than once to establish, and with a beautiful ease in tracking shots along the streets and empty fields that is in fact poetic in tone. Best of all, as other critics have noted, are the night-time walking scenes, where Magnani walks along in front of the camera, the lights behind making it sort of ominous and evocative at once, with one man coming into talk and then leaving and then another woman or man coming in, as Magnani walks and talks like it's the most natural thing in the world. Simply put, they're some of the most beautiful moments in 60's Italian film.
As the film rolls along to the extraordinarily depressing ending, leading to a scene in a solitary prison cell with a character tied down to a bed with a horrible fever, the music also becomes a fascinating asset. It's hit and miss with how Pasolini utilizes Vivaldi in the film, sometimes with the soft and super sad notes being played in moments that aren't quite necessary (i.e. Ettore just idly strolling along by himself, it might be more effective without), while other times with a very cool power (i.e. the pimp walking down the road, almost in a Morricone mood). But in these final scenes the music splendidly complements the doomed nature of the mother and son, as whatever momentary hope is moot for what the environment has to offer, which is all the same over and over. It's a very good film, if not a great one, about characters unable to surpass the dregs and just annoyances of the society (for Roma the customers and pimp, for Ettore his gang of "friends"), and it should be considered a must-see for fans of Italian film. 8.5/10
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