Mamma Roma (1962) Poster


User Reviews

Review this title
39 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
The shame and grace of a struggling mother and her son...
enicholson7 September 2001
Mama Roma, played by an amazing Anna Magnani, desperately wants a good, respectable life for her 17 year old son, played by Ettore Garafalo. She would do anything for him. If at one time she sold her body on the streets of Rome partly as an act of rebellion against a failed marriage of convenience, she now must resume the work to raise funds to pay off a threatening former pimp (played by the cool, charismatic Franco Citti), while raising a few extra lira to get her son a few nice things on the side. She implores a priest to help her son find a decent job and does a host of other things to try and get Ettore away from the life of a hood.

The problem is that her son is like she presumably was (and is still capable of being) -- a rebellious, angry child drawn to the street life. He also, almost instinctively, falls for a young whore who may or may not resemble his young mother.

This is a great film. Pasolini cares deeply for these characters. Are Ettore and his mother a Madonna and Christ as sometime prostitute and would be criminal? Perhaps. Though their sins are not necessary for their survival, their hardships and sufferings take on a religious, martyred quality. Mamma Roma is the lost, heroic sinner of the Italian lower classes who can sometimes struggle to better themselves through respectable work, faith and redemption. But she can't do enough for herself and her son by being virtuous, so she must turn to the street on occasion. And either due to his environment or his temperament, both products of his mother, Ettore, in all his youthful impatience and vigor, can't resist the effortless ennui and easy thrills of hanging out with petty hoods, stealing from whoever they can, and dallying around with a young whore.

Rome looks and feels like a prison in this film. The city feels walled off by apartment buildings, the entrance into which feels like the entrance into an ancient city -- perhaps ancient Jerusalem. Outside the modern buildings stand patches of ancient ruins. Ettore lives his life among these overlooked, neglected ruins, which perhaps foreshadow his own future. If this is to be his future it won't be because of a lack of love and effort on the part of Mama Roma; instead it will be because of the neglect of the prison of Rome, and because of his own wild, bitter heart; the heart of a boy for which Mama Roma would devote her life.
40 out of 42 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Absolutely amazing
zetes16 May 2002
Mamma Roma could be Pasolini's best film. Well, perhaps I shouldn't judge that right now. I have seen two others, Salo, which I quite like despite its being the vilest film ever made, and The Gospel According to Matthew, generally considered his best film. I love that one, as well. But, as much as I loved those two films, they didn't envelope me like Mamma Roma did.

Anna Magnani plays the titular character, an aging, plump, and earthy whore. Her pimp has retired and let her go, so Mamma Ro' runs off to the country to gather up her teenage son. The backstory of the son is left obscure. Apparently Mamma Ro' left him with some relatives or something like that. Her son, Ettore, is excited to move to Rome, but he is not sure whether he trusts his mother. She has abandoned him for most of his life presumably (one of the great gifts that Pasolini has in this film is that he never spells anything out, but just suggests and implies a lot).

The film shifts between Mamma Ro' and Ettore. Ro' is running a respectable fruit stand, although she likes to hang around all of her friends who are still prostitutes and pimps. Probably the most memorable shot of the film occurs when Ro' walks down the streets of rural Rome at night. The camera moves backwards on a dolly, and Ro' is constantly walking towards it. Her friends approach her, talk with her and walk with her a while, only to drop back. A few seconds later, a new companion will walk up next to Ro' and walk beside her, talk with her. There are actually two scenes with this shockingly beautiful technique, used at strategic points of the film. Mamma Roma cares about her son more than anything. She is a good mother, or at least she is overly determined to be one.

Ettore, on the other hand, lives a life of boredom. School does not interest him, nor does work. He would rather hang around with all the local hoodlums and the local tramp who lives down the street. He wanders around amongst the ruins of ancient Roman city walls. The landscape is simply beautiful, but in a very desolate manner. As the film progresses, Ettore grows more and more delinquent.

The themes of mother and son are universal. Of making amends and of growing up. This film captures the feel of human existence as almost no other film does. Pasolini is a genius, he has his fingers right on the pulse of human rhythm. I think that he captures what the neorealist directors were always after. They always got bogged down in melodrama, although I do love a ton of them. Mamma Roma is the kind of film that makes me happy to be alive. It's not exactly a happy film, but it is wonderfully life affirming. When Mamma Ro' rode proudly down the street on the back of her son's motorbike, it left a mark on me never to be erased.
42 out of 54 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Anna Magnani is Magnificent in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Excellent Feature
eibon098 September 2000
Mamma Roma(1962) is one of the best films to come out of Italy during the 1960's. Anna Magnani is terrific as a strong willed mother who wants to give her son a better future to look foward to by living in the city. Its a homage to the neo-realist classics of the late 40's and mid 50's. In fact, this film compares greatly with some of the early films by De Sica and Fellini. Mamma Roma and his previous film added on another facet to the multi talented, multiple artist Pier Paolo Pasolini. The movie is filled with many political and religious ideas that the director believed in.

Mamma Roma(1962) deals with the themes of betrayal, loneiness, and class status. The film has a nililistic feel to it when it comes to the youth of the story. There are parts of this motion picture that reminded me of Luis Bunuel's Los Olvidados. They both see the youth as people who have nothing to look foward to. Its the opposite of a coming of age story because nothing positive happens to the teen protagonist. The direction by Pasolini is well done as he showed that he was on his way to becoming one of the most important film makers in Italy during the late 20th Century.

It contains some poetic moments. Its a film that doesn't get much credit due to the bleak nature of the main characters. Its this sense of hopelessness that turned many viewers off to this movie in 1962. It was rereleased in its full version several years ago by Martin Scorsese' film company. The film is a class study of people who try to escape their old ways only to be unsuccessful in the attempt to turn over a new leaf. The art direction was done by future director Flavio Mogherini.

Ettore Garofolo does a good job in the role of Ettore, Mamma Roma's son. Anna Magnani is wonderful at alternating between motherly and sensual instincts. In 1962, Mamma Roma was denounced by the police to the Magistrate's office for its portrayal of the young teens. The case was eventually dismissed. One scene that was good is the scene where Mamma Roma shows her son what's its like to be respectable. Another memorable moment is the final shot of Magnani attempting to jump out the window.

Ettore is presented as a martyr in the vein of a religious symbol. His final scenes are both heart breaking and sad. Although Mamma Roma is a prostitute, she still in a awkward way has a moral consciousness that gradually develops throughout the movie. Her ideology is developed through the mass media. What's sad is that Mamma Roma does not realize that her ideals are corrupted until she feels that she has failed in her relationship with her son. Pasolini believed that "The only thing that makes man really great is the fact that he will die", and "Man's only greatness lies in his tragedy".
41 out of 47 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
often intense, in big and subtle ways, and filled with a technical prowess specific to Pasolini and Delli-Colli
Quinoa198411 July 2007
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
14 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Impressive, Cruel, Touching, Riveting Realistic Drama
claudio_carvalho1 March 2006
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.

"Mamma Roma", the second movie of Pier Paolo Pasolini, is an impressive, cruel, touching, riveting realistic drama. Anna Magnani has an awesome performance in the role of a limited mother trying to live an honest life and give the best for her son. Franco Citti has a short, but also fantastic acting in the role of a nasty pimp. In times when Hollywoodian fairytale world prevails in most worldwide movie theaters and rentals, it is good to revisit the real world in this unforgettable gem. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Mamma Roma"
20 out of 30 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Whatever you do to your mother will come back around to you.
lastliberal28 July 2010
If Sarah Palin wants to support what she calls her "Mama Grizzlies," she should have Mamma Roma in her stable. This woman (Anna Magnani - The Rose Tattoo, The Secret of Santa Vittoria) is one tough grizzly, especially when it comes to her son, and trying to keep him on the straight and narrow.

She used to be a woman of the evening, until her pimp (Franco Citti - Accattone!, Godfather III) marries a country girl and retires, letting her reclaim her now teenage son (Ettore Garofolo in his first film) and move to Rome.

He soon falls for a loose woman and in with some unsavory characters. That's when the grizzly rears on her hind legs and goes to work.

Director Pier Paolo Pasolini (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, The Decameron, and the last before he was murdered, Salò) used Citti in many of his films. His films, while critically acclaimed, could draw moral outrage. Five minutes were cut from this film by the Italian authorities; although I can only guess where. He still was one of the best, and directed a winner here.
10 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Ode to mother's love.
Galina_movie_fan18 January 2008
"Mamma Roma"(1962) the second film directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, is the brutally realistic in its depiction of life in the slums of Rome yet lyrical ode to mother's love. Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani), a middle-aged prostitute is ready to quit her profession and to start a new life with her teenage son who had spent his childhood in the country and does not know her well. She wants a better life for herself and a meaningful future for her son, and there is not much her Mamma Roma would not do for her son. Things don't go as planned, though...

Anna Magnani was renowned for her earthy, passionate, "woman-of-the-soil" roles and she is one of the main reasons to see the film. She is Rome's flesh and soul, its spirit and symbol, its loud laugh and bitter tears.
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good early Pasolini!
vdg20 July 2004
One of the early Pasolini, Mamma Roma is a forgotten gem of Italian cinema. Some pleasant surprises in this underrated movies, like the amazing performance of `mamma roma' -Anna Magnani , and the MUSIC, mostly classical!!! I can relate this movies with some work done by Vittorio de Sica , but is not so neo-realist, even though sometimes you feel like it is. Symbolism, a very dear approach of later Pasolini's work is present here as well, and we can even see this movie as a Greek tragedy, leaving the viewer's many options to explore. Overall, a well deserved 8.5/10.
24 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Ettore as Mantegna's Christ: another perspective
laserbeam-123 October 2006
Just wanted to point out that in the final scenes, Pasolini shows Ettore in jail (for stealing), strapped to a table, and it's very much like Andrea Mantegna's painting, "The Dead Christ." This might say a lot about what Pasolini thought about Christ's crucifixion, and how we might view Mamma Roma the whore and her son Ettore (perhaps not as mother and son, but as Mary Magdalene and Christ?). This final scene also makes one recall how the opening scene, the marriage of Carmine (the pimp) and his bride, looks so much like DaVinci's painting, "The Last Supper"... and so the film opens with a visual reference to Christ the pimp before he dies, and ends with one of Christ the thief after he dies.

So many things about this film have elements of the story of Christ, only they're turned on their head. Ettore's relationship with the loose woman Bruna, his familiar dealing with moneylenders, his lazy and thieving followers, his lack of a trade, his stealing -- it's as if he's the opposite of Christ. And yet Ettore is blessed: he's rooted in nature (he grew up on a farm, he recognizes birds by their songs, acts spontaneously on his natural feelings of anger or lust) and he's set within a story that's essentially about the power of morality and redemption. Mamma Roma is a flawed woman but a good woman who's trying to do the right thing, to mend her ways. And Ettore is not so much an anti-Christ as he is a proto-Christ -- a pre-Christian figure. The film 'Mamma Roma' may have more to do with being a pagan story than a Christian one...
30 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Pasolini's Dark Italy
gavin694222 March 2016
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 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.

"Mamma Roma" was dedicated to the director of "Roma, città aperta" (1945), Roberto Rossellini. Anna Magnani plays a pregnant woman who is killed in the middle of Rossellini's film. Rossellini represents "good Italians" through the deaths of a priest, Don Pietro, who helps a communist group and a mother who tries to help her communist husband. People who killed these "good Italians" are Nazis. On the other hand, Pasolini comments on how the country changed from 1945 to 1962 in "Mamma Roma". First of all, characters in the film are whores, pimps, and thieves. None of them are people who work for people.

Pasolini is an interesting character in how he viewed Rome (and Italy), perhaps more real than the neo-realists did. He was dark and gritty at times, and of course was not afraid to dip into the most disturbing satire (with "Salo"). Who shows us the true Rome, or perhaps they both speak the truth: one talking of Rome in the sun, and one under the moon?
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Street Walking
wes-connors28 June 2011
In Rome, middle-aged Anna Magnani (as Mamma Roma) tries to shed her past life as a prostitute and reconnect with rebellious teenage son Ettore Garofolo (as Ettore). He moves in as she gets a legitimate job. Things already show signs of falling apart when young ex-pimp Franco Citti (as Carmine) returns to town. After failing to make himself respectable, Mr. Citti demands Ms. Magnani return to the working the world's oldest profession. If not, he threatens tell son Garofolo about Magnani's sordid past...

This neo-realistic drama loses some realism in the story. You have to wonder how Citti ("I was 23 and you were 40") hooked up with Magnani and why he doesn't look for more profitable whores, presently. Also, Garofolo (age 17½) certainly seems able to deduce his mother's past. Still, writer/director Pier Paolo Pasolini uses his landscape stylishly, with a lot of walking scenes. Christian religious allegory is prevalent (note Garofolo in bondage). A fly walks across the opening credits, which serves as a comment.

******** Mamma Roma (8/31/62) Pier Paolo Pasolini ~ Anna Magnani, Ettore Garofolo, Franco Citti, Silvana Corsini
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
planktonrules3 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I know that this is a very well respected film and there are a lot of people who loved it. However, as for me, it did little for me. Now I am NOT saying it's a bad film--I didn't particularly enjoy it. Much of this might just be because I have never understood the appeal for Anna Magnani. In the films of hers I have seen, she just seems very loud and coarse. To each his own.

Mamma Roma (Magnani) is a middle-aged prostitute who has been scrimping and saving for years to afford to retire and bring her son (now 16) to come live with her. He'd apparently been raised for her by someone in the country. The problem is that despite her best intentions, it really is too late to make him into the gentleman she'd envisioned. He prefers to hang with low-lifes, steal and avoid work--proving the old saying "you can never go back". A very sad story, indeed.

The best thing about the film is that it does NOT have clichés like some films about prostitutes. There is no magical happy ending and the life is tough and sad. I can applaud Pasolini for this. But life is awfully short and sometimes I wonder if my time would be better spent watching something a bit more enjoyable. This ISN'T to say I only want to see happy films--it's just that with little connection to the characters, I just never felt particularly drawn to finish the film once it began--something that is actually pretty rare for a film nut like myself.
11 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This is the italian cinema!
raul-421 May 2000
Wonderful performances, almost real. Beautiful black and white cinematography. It shows the real love of a mother, driving her to situations she doesn't want, to make her son happy. Melodramatic story that will make you weep. And will also make you watch every single italian film done in the 60's.
26 out of 36 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
neo-realism meets Catholicism in an early work of Pasolini
dromasca16 January 2020
A few days ago I saw '1917', the film that has a good chance of picking up several Academy Awards in a few weeks. The glory of this film is due to the fact that its director, Sam Mendes, uses the single shot technique to give the feeling of continuity. Of course, we are in 2019 and Mendes' single shot is not made in one piece but enjoys a little CGI assistance. It happens that last night I watched at the local cinematheque theater Pier Paolo Pasolini's 'Mamma Roma' from 1962. Well, in this film, we are dealing with two monologue scenes with the lead character, lasting for many minutes each, shot using exactly the same technique for scenes that take place in the middle of the night on Rome's ill-famed streets after World War II. The effect is spectacular and it is certain that Pasolini did not enjoy the help of any computer. These scenes represent only a fraction of the original and expressive cinematographic elements that can be found in this second film written and directed by Pasolini.

There are other scenes and ideas worth watching in 'Mamma Roma'. The film begins and ends with two scenes that are inspired by two of the most famous masterpieces of Renaissance religious art - Leonardo Da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' and Andrea Mantegna's 'Dead Christ'. The film is also sprinkled with other religious references and quotes, which does not prevent him from having a profound social message, reflecting Pasolini's political and intellectual identity which at that time he defined himself as of a 'Marxist Catholic'. The subject - the story of a prostitute 50 years old who tries to retire from the street job, to rehabilitate herself socially, but first of all to redeem herself morally by saving her adolescent son, neglected until then, from a life of poverty and crime - , and the presence of a strong female character played by one of the great actresses of the Italian post-war film, can place the film in the category of late neo-realism. Technically, however, the shooting style and sound capture demonstrate at many times that Pasolini was looking across the border to France, where the New Wave was approaching its peak.

What remains of this film beyond the documentary and historical value? First, of course, Anna Magnani's magnificent acting - an anthology role. Ettore Garofolo is her partner as her teenage son - a great promise that he did not materialize his acting career as this start was enabling. The story may seem melodramatic, a bit linear and too predictable, but the way it is told, the sequences shown on screen and what is left out, have at many times an unexpectedly modern feel. The sound and the image carry the weight of time despite all the reconditioning, but the music has elements that work surprisingly well. 'Mamma Roma' is less mentioned in the articles about Pasolini's biography and career, perhaps because it was followed by more shocking works, but I believe that the film has its well deserved place of interest for today's viewers.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Story of a Mother Warning: Spoilers
I think that, along with "Accattone" and "The Gospel According to St. Matthew", "Mamma Roma" is one of the best films directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, being one of his most moving works.

The way in which this film portrays a hard and dramatic reality is remarkable in every possible way, making the story and the characters from the movie something very close to the viewer, having at the same a very poetical quality in each scene.

I think that is shame that Pasolini is mostly remembered by the dull "Trilogy of Life" movies and "Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, 1975)" when he made such memorable and beautiful films like this one.

"Mamma Roma" is a heartbreaking (but also very inspiring and wonderfully made) film which I recommend to any viewer.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Tart with a Heart...
tim-764-29185611 June 2012
One of the main things I noticed about Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1962 film is how many similarities it has with Fellini's 'Nights of Cabiria', which was made five years earlier.

Not least of all, the feisty Anna Magnani as the 40 something whore of the title, nick-named presumably after her reputation as the best working woman in the city. There's also the fact that she desperately wants to retire, set up a fruit and veg stall and finally, get to know her teenage son.

Then, there's the modern, on 'the edge of town' high-rise flats and wasteland that borders flanks them. Many Italian directors of the day used such locations, presumably as they were easy to film on and probably didn't require the expense and red-tape of getting permission to film in the City centre. But, those landscapes show a universal sort of hinterland, between poverty and modernism and their ugly sparseness helps concentrate on the human figures we're watching.

Giuletta Masina, as the protagonist Fellini's wife then, in comparison, also tries to retire but her romantic ideals go astray and she just heads for heartache, whilst Mamma Rosa wants to see the son that his father never saw and she feels guilty over her neglect of him and wants him to steer a course away from the way she has lived.

Unfortunately, these ideals slip a little, her persistent pimp notwithstanding, as she relies more and more on using her rather dodgy contacts and past liaisons to achieve that. Sickly as a young child, Ettore (Ettore Garofolo) is, frankly not a handsome lad and when he gets to know a local girl who doesn't quite meet his mother's high ideals, she asks another much younger and prettier call-girl to introduce him to women for the first time, if you get my drift and of course she wants to get him a about a mother's love for a child being blind!

Pasolini's approach is rather less dramatic and theatrical than Fellini's but is probably more consistent and it's more straightforward. You just have to love Mamma's offbeat approach to life, though not everybody does in the film, which is both amusing and entertaining. I understand that the cast were all amateur apart from Anna Magnani, as was common with films from the Italian neorealist movement and this makes it all the more natural and believable.

I noticed that Pasolini employed some lovely steady camera shots, like with a Steadicam, slowly moving along streets, which gives a graceful fluidity, adding to an often poetic poise. However, the emotional buttons don't get pushed quite as hard or readily as with the Fellini comparison but it's still an enjoyable film, that certainly adds to the list of notable Italian films of the 50s and 60s.

If you enjoy the straighter side of Fellini, such as La Dolce Vita, or any that depicts Rome in a contemporary way, then you'll enjoy this too. The 'Mr Bongo' release has a decent transfer with pretty good sound. A few subtitling spelling gremlins are just noticeable but never spoil the viewing pleasure.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Holy Family of the Suburbs
hasosch22 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
When her pimp gets married, Mamma Roma decides to retire from the horizontal business and focus wholly on her one son, Ettore, who, without any education, grows up in the countryside. She brings him to Rome and enables him to enroll to a school with the money that she earned from prostitution. She buys an apartment in one of the better Roman neighborhoods and starts her new business as a green-grocer. However, Ettore feels lost in the big city to which he is not used and joins a gang of youngsters around the beautiful Bruna with whom he falls in love. Since he cannot bring up enough money to buy gifts for her, he starts to steal, even items from the household of his mother. When Mamma Roma gets wind from that, she takes him from the school and organizes him a job as waiter. At the same time, she tries to turn him away from Bruna by sending him to a former colleague of her. The misery is perfect when Mamma Roma's old pimp turns up again and demands from her to prostitute herself again, since otherwise he wants to tell her son that his mother is a whore. Desperately she goes back to her old profession in the evenings, but it does not help: Bruna tells Ettore everything. Here, his breakdown starts: he quits work and is from now on a professional street-robber. When he and his colleagues rob patients in a hospital, Ettore is caught in flagranti by the police and brought into a psychiatric clinic, where he dies.

The German psychiatrist and writer Dr. Oskar Panizza wrote, towards the end of the 19th century, a story, entitled "The 'Trinity' Inn". This very special inn in Southern Germany is hold by an old man who speaks Hebrew, a blond, thin asthmatic youth named "Christus" and his mother, a once good looking woman named Mary whose profession is that of a whore. A very similar familiar constellation appears in Panizza's "The Council of Love" which has been filmed by Werner Schroeter in 1982. It would be very interesting to know if Pasolini knew Panizza's work, since without any doubt (at least for people who know Pasolini's work), we find in the figures of Mamma Roma the Virgin Mary, in Ettore Christ, in Carmine the pimp St. Joseph and most probably in Bruna the character of Maria Magdalena (exactly this role the actress Bruna - Silvana Corsini had played one year before in Pasolini's "Accattone". What we therefore have in front of us is a wonderfully perverted Holy Family in the suburbs of Rome.
11 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
What is the difference between a king and a whore?
petrakos10 December 2003
If you think that you know the answer, just watch this masterpiece by the patriarch of the Italian "New Generation" whose work has changed the history of the Italian cinema (and literature). A marvellous poetic, neorealistic look on the pure maternal love and its interaction with the rotten feelings of the real world. The movie has the expressional force of a Greek tragedy, describing the impuissance of ordinary people to alter their fate by believing that "life is so beautiful, if you can think wisely".
19 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Magnani is unmatched, but the film is not a happy one
Red-12512 February 2020
Mamma Roma (1962) was shown in the U.S. with the title Mama Roma. The film was written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Anna Magnani plays Mama Roma, a former streetwalker who wants to leave that part of her life behind. Ettore Garofolo portrays her son, Ettore, who comes to join Mama Rosa in her new apartment in the city.

Mama Roma lives for her son, but he doesn't live for her. Despite good opportunities--provided by his mother--Ettore has the habit of going down the wrong road when he comes to a choice point.

Garofolo is a a good enough actor, but Anna Magnani is unique in her abilities. In every one of her movies that I've seen, she embodies the role she plays. She is a force of nature.

The movie is shot in the Italian Realism style, even though it was filmed somewhat later than the dates usually applied to that era. It's not a happy film, although there are happy moments in it. This is a film worth seeing, because it gives us a panoramic view of Anna Magnani's talent. It's worth viewing for that alone.

We saw the movie on the small screen, where it worked well. Mama Roma has an excellent IMDb rating of 7.8. I think it's even better than that.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Why am I nobody, and you the King of Kings?"
msavard-161-20628619 October 2011
As my first Pasolini film, Mamma Roma is as good an introduction as I could have wished. The plot is terrific and heartbreaking, and the depth and range that Mamma Roma's character calls for is delivered in full by Magnani. One must only consider the two separate occasions we see Mamma walk the line after dark. What a force! Her figure attracts so many men, almost like a light in an otherwise dark night would attract insects. But none of these men can keep up with her--the past she recounts, although lightheartedly, is too troublesome a road for anyone to walk down. Indeed, she herself never finds an escape from it.

And this is the genius of Pasolini's film. That we have the two figures of Ettore and Mamma Roma, who each emerge in the film at the hour of their seeming liberation-- Mamma freed from her pimp and Ettore from his "hicks" in the country--who nonetheless crumble under the weight of history. All they are left to do is wonder, to paraphrase Ettore during the end, "why so many people are torturing (them)," when all they (Mamma Roma and Ettore) want to do is good. Existential despair that resonates today amidst grave financial uncertainty and uncertain class ascendancy.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Mamma e Figlio, Mum and Son, ANNA MAGNANI and Ettore Garofolo
marcin_kukuczka3 May 2013
"You'll be

his first kiss

his first love

his first friend

You are his momma

And he is your whole world"

I have selected this mother-son verse for my review because it seems to accurately correspond to this movie's core idea. As one of the first features by Italy's controversial yet versatile talent, Pier Paolo Pasolini, MAMMA ROMA is a movie which remains strongly in the memory of the viewer due to, as a New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther pointed out, its "bottomless well of emotions," its sensuality and "dark iconoclasm." Nothing is black and white, everything is highly complex, more to say: CONTRADICTORY. Having so many ideas blended, mixed, out of place, the film is an altogether shocking experience. While Pasolini's other films may occur too bizarre and "feverish" (Crowther) for some viewers, this one is actually a striking combination of the director's perversion and genius.

As much as MAMMA ROMA may be considered a descendant of Italian Neorealism being an almost 'successor' or 'sequence' to Rossellini's ROMA CITTA APERTA (additionally, the presence of Lamberto Maggiorani echoes DeSica's masterpiece BICYCLE THIEVES uttering his only word in the movie - "al ladro"), it is an unpredictable, surprising mixture of the classic and the modern, the Greek 'cosmos' vs. 'chaos' and a board for Renaissance painting, baroque music, classical literature, mystical Catholicism and Freudian psychoanalysis. Something that perhaps only Pasolini was able to do without the finale of 'scandalous rage' and oblivion.' In the title itself, the city of Rome (the locale of the story), different from its ancient power and arrogance, from its medieval capital of pilgrim destination, from its 1945 crisis, the Rome of 1962 is, satirically, personified by a prostitute (almost on the verge of blasphemy with an association with Salus Populi Romani - Madonna in Santa Maria Maggiore called by some 'Mamma di Roma'). But she is not Fellini's Cabiria (though there are certain parallels, particularly in the desire of change), but far more: a mother, title Mamma Roma played brilliantly by Anna Magnani.

Although much could be said about this blended aspect of literary/artistic/musical/religious sources (all of which Pasolini himself personified) - the aspect that is nicely developed by Jim's FilmWebsite (where he discusses Vivaldi concerto in the scenes of emotional tension along with Leonardo da Vinci frescoes of "madly inappropriate Biblical references" - referring to Crowther's words), for that reason, another review would be necessary. In the context of art, the director of photography, Tonino Delli Colli deserves full credit making some scenes look almost magically meaningful. But, as this requires more in depth analysis, let me focus more on this title character or more, two characters that make the whole film an emotional and psychological feast. They foremost make the film worth seeing.

ANNA MAGNANI: All tensions somehow meet their realization in the immensely meaningful yet complex persona of Mamma Roma. When she sings, she sings with joy, when she plays, she plays with passion, when she looks at us, her eyes tell everything. Although there were many roles in her life, this is actually the most appealing one. Initially not very enthusiastic about the role, the vibrant contrast and absorbing vitality results. I would agree with Jim's article that her performance is "earthy and passionate (...) simultaneously hilarious and tragic, realistic and stylized." Apart from the "enormous bags under her eyes," she plunges herself into the story as hardly anyone else as a mother and a prostitute. Who can forget her brilliant confessions to all people around in the nocturnal streets of Rome or her final tragedy. But we cannot analyze her alone. She is fully realized along with her son, Ettore, a boy bitten by the lizard of his mother's past and the lizard of money and destructive greed.

ETTORE GAROFOLO embodies wandering youth, wandering puberty being constantly in search of something. With his fellows, he is like one of the Apostles from IL VANGELO SECONDO MATTEO; alone, he is Pasolini's world in itself. Inspired by Caravaggio's "Boy Bitten By a Lizard" he is both pure manifestation of Pasolini's view of a young man along with his immensely appraised maturing sexuality as well as a product of psychoanalytical aspects. In him, the struggle is the stimulus and response, the source and the goal, the mother as a haunting love, a haunting desire and a girl, Bruna, as freedom of escape. And yet, she is still a product of his mind and inner, almost subconscious sphere. Contrast evokes, the one of spirituality in the glimpse of Madonna and carnality in the glimpse of the girl's breasts; the contrast between fresh nature and old ruins - fresh air among the old heyday. He blends the carnal and the spiritual, the joys and suffering. In one of the most memorable scenes (with the superior camera-work when the boy remains within his own frame), he talks to his mother who sits like a harlot...later, he talks to Bruna, the Eve-like creature from the Garden of Eden. The much appreciated tango scene is a climax of the Oepidus complex. Mind you that in his final agony, which echoes another Neorealist masterpiece, PAISA, but, foremost, Andrea Mantegna's painting, Ettore addresses his mother, conclusively the one he has loved most. Solely in that relation, we can embrace Bosley Crowther's words that "the story imprisons its characters in a world of temptation."

When Ettore dies, he resembles Christ by the echoing power of Mantegna's masterful painting. Here, the boy of one name becomes the implicit protagonist of the movie. Our attention is surely drawn to him. But also, something dies in Mamma Roma in her Pieta-like agony because she is his momma and he is her whole world. Strange and uncommon as this pious reference may seem, Pasolini makes this conclusion a universal appeal of feelings that more powerfully than radiantly speak of their universal religiosity and spirituality, but, above all, humanity.
7 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Vibrant, involving, a little heavy on the Magnani.
muddlyjames16 January 2002
Definitely a mixed bag. While, for once, we are given a Pasolini character with some charisma and emotions we can identify with, it is also true Magnani's "grande dame" performance seriously unbalances the picture. Her regularly timed eruptions of gasping,clutching-her-sides belly laughter (no doubt signifiers of her "earthiness") often seem as disconcerting and mystifying to her co-stars as they do to the viewer. On the other hand, her quieter scenes expressing her alternate anxiety and grasping love for her son are quite convincing. Most impressive of all are the two nightime set-pieces where Magnani walks, in extended takes, down seemingly desolate Roman streets (almost nothing aside from street lamps is visible) and is in turn joined and then abandoned by various other creatures of the night. All these people - mainly prostitutes and their clients and various other partiers - are plainly familiar with "Mamma Ro" and it is here that Magnani's operatic performance style actually fits the situation; showing her behavior as a defense against personal entanglements and the impingeing emptiness of the night. Pasolini is able to comunicate not only her ease and familiarity with this world and her alternate sense of cosmic "aloneness" in it, but a resonate sense of the moral disruption and decay he saw as prominent in that society. Pasolini makes powerful use of his settings throughout the movie. The ancient (and fragile) ruins giving a sense both of our increasingly tenuous connection with the past and the impermanence of the current structure of things. The use of wide, often abandoned, streets with the camera tracking backward - in front of - or forward - also in front of - the characters. We thus get the feeling of a force pulling the characters from one place and/or pushing them to another. A sense of the operation of fate perhaps? The cluster of apartment buildings also effectively communicates a sense of Rome (or the modern city) as a prison - especially in the final shot.

A couple of other notes: Ettore Garofalo is entirely believable as the sullen, swaggering, sometimes awkward son. As for Pasolini's intrusive and heavy-handed religious symbolism: it doesn't overwhelm the inherent drama of the story, or our involvement, until the final 10-15 minutes. This in stark contrast to all of his films after THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW. In short this most dated of 60's experimentalists seems pretty fresh here. 7/10.
13 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Unforgettable Pasolini
phoeniks-120 July 2005
Strong and tragic movie with an amazing Anna Magnani as the broken-down woman who fight for a dignified life in the slum of Rome. Uncompromising social realism and no one could like Pasolini use music as a consequent commentary to the themes in the film. In his movies the music is not isolated to the specific scene, but always to the film as a hole. He does this in a way so that the viewer is being compelled into the movie and becomes an "active" participant in the action. It is characteristic for Italian movies in general, but Pasolini achieved this in the most painfully and hypnotic way. Maybe with a tendency towards the rhetorical but that does not weaken the film. It is a masterpiece!
12 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Too pretentious and "artistic" to me
BeneCumb18 February 2015
I have always had ambivalent feelings towards Pasolini. On the one hand, I like twisted plots, thrill, unpredictable moments, versatile characters and the like, but he is too dallying, has many references to "old" issues and depicts awkward things artificially created, i.e. not based on true events or so. Mamma Roma has its moments, but, in general, it is not catchy, the past within is too schematic, and all male performances are mediocre; black-and-white did not let enjoying of landscapes and town milieu in full either.

True, Anna Magnani as the leading actress is good, her voice and facial expressions included, but all in all, the film was just a sophisticated cinematography and a reasoning story about a former prostitute's challenges and opportunities.
5 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Beautiful film...
RosanaBotafogo22 May 2021
It seems recurrent in Italian works of the 60s in which there are beautiful and strong women, the lack of sorority and empathy, making the female feud always exacerbated, except for this uncomfortable detail, the film is a dark reflection of the difficulty of women and single mothers still today , contemporary theme, film that the era was "shooed" for portraying prostitution as something normal and subsistence profession, beautiful film, love of an unconditional mother ... Based death Marcello Elisei contention bed...
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed