DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
MAMMA ROMA (director/writer: Pier Paolo Pasolini; cinematographer: Tonino Delli Colli; editor: Nino Baragli; music: Carlo Rustichelli; cast: Anna Magnani (Mamma Roma), Ettore Garofolo (Ettore), Franco Citti (Carmine), Silvana Corsini (Bruna), Luisa Loiano (Biancofiore), Paolo Volponi (priest), Luciano Gonini (Zacaria), Vittorio La Paglia (Il sig. Pellissier), Piero Morgia (Piero); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Alfredo Bini; The Criterion Collection; 1962-Italy-in Italian with English subtitles)

"Magnani is the only professional actor in a cast of non-professionals and her overwrought emotional performance contrasts greatly with all the other natural performances."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

The second feature by the openly homosexual, poet, novelist and Marxist filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini ("Accattone"/"The Gospel According to St. Matthew"/"Salo") is a neorealistic drama about a lewd reformed prostitute mother, Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani), a smothering mom with an earthy laugh, who wants more than anything else to make a better life for her teenage son Ettore (Ettore Garofolo, discovered while waiting tables at a restaurant) and to elevate him to the status of the middle-classs. Magnani is the only professional actor in a cast of non-professionals and her overwrought emotional performance contrasts greatly with all the other natural performances. The story is too familiar to be fresh and the execution lacks a vitality to keep up viewer interest in such a predictable doomed tale. 

It opens with the middle-aged Mamma Roma herding into a wedding ceremony in Guidiona three little pigs and singing bawdy songs as her former pimp, the seedy Carmine (Franco Citti), marries a local hick. The determined Mamma Roma comes to the country to take her 16-year-old son back to Rome. Mamma Roma gets an apartment in the suburbs of Rome and operates an outdoors vegetable stall. Upset that her son hangs out with petty criminal loafers and is seeing a promiscuous 24-year-old girl with a child (Silvana Corsini), Mamma Roma blackmails through her underworld prostitution connections a hypocritical married restaurateur (Vittorio La Paglia) into giving her son a waiter's job in his upscale eatery. But things turn sour when Carmine shows up in Rome and threatens to tell her dullard son about her sordid past unless she again turns tricks for him. When the kid finds out, it leads to tragic results.

It doesn't have much to say about these marginalized types, living in the underbelly of society, that hasn't been said many times before. Aside from its striking location shots, its well-chosen Vivaldi score, its sensuous undertones and Pasolini's artful direction, this B/W pic fails to excite and goes down as one of the more accessible but weaker films of the talented director.

REVIEWED ON 9/14/2012       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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