Saturday, October 15, 2011

MAMMA ROMA (Italian) (1962)

‘Explain me why I’m nobody and you’re king of kings.’
The desperation of oedipal mother theme is perhaps never explored on screen with such an intensity of acting and depth on screen. Anna Magnani deserved standing ovation for making Mamma Roma so breathing natural on screen; the only other film and brilliant act of mother that I immediately recollect is Kim-Hye-Ja in ‘Mother’. Mamma Roma is middle aged whore trying to leave behind her ugly past for the sake of his teenage son. She’s so desperate to make her son’s life respectable one but the old pimp turns up too shatter her pipe-dream with reality hard to resist.     

This is my first Pier Paolo Pasolini film and I wonder how such a masterpiece could remain unknown to me for so long! Pasolini was a film critic, writer and political theorist and pro-Marxist much before he started making films. Throughout his artistic career of writer and filmmaker, the man became the most controversial figure in Italy as real threat to fascism. The man was unfortunately murdered in 1975, shortly after his most controversial and blatant film ‘Salo’. Though Neorealist in it’s effect and portrayal, Pasolini’s this film is way different in approach from other Neorealist Masters like Rossellini and De Sica and the viewers can get the clue from the very first opening of the film- the wedding toast, Mamma Roma’s boisterous laughter, songs and three piglets. 

I found Pasolini more subtle, symbolic and innovative artist compared to other Neorealist masters even though I watched this single film! Let me share one observation in this respect. There’s a profound long shot where Mamma Roma keeps on walking on the road at night and simultaneously talking with whomsoever passes on the road. Pasolini repeated it twice in the film. Does she really talk to them or to herself? Well I think it’s brilliant and innovative use of narration showing internal reality of the isolated protagonist as equal to monologue that provides operatic feel without showing us the melodramatic flashback. Towards the tragic end, we see the son on striped prison bed symbolically represents Jesus Christ figure and the last frame of the film suggested Pasolini’s inscrutable angle towards religion. Throughout the film slow evocative score keeps running uplifting its despair and irony so sublimely.   

Worth to say withut exaggeration that this film wouldn’t be same without the terrific performance of Anna Magnani. She’s the woman to watch in each and every frame from the beginning to end. Both Anna Magnani and Pasolini deserved standing ovation. This is the landmark of Neorealism and Italian cinema; and I think it’s high time for me to explore more of Pasolini.

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