‘Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.’ - Jean Luc Godard.
Here’s another gold of Italian cinema which shows us the desperation of common working class to be on silver screen with all natural or cultivated talents, to get a chance for fame, recognition with hopes and dreams of success to realize a fragmentary illusion of the celluloid. Today from cinema the direction is shifted to television where in the name of talent hunt and reality shows, the dream merchants are filling their coffers with shattered dreams of contestants belong to middle class milieu. That desperation for five minutes of fame proves an insulting lesson for many and yet we see the flock of them in next season. And like that climax I too become so angry when by chance I witness those good for nothing judges mocking and poking fun at contestants on face to make it more gruesome!
Bellissima in Italian means ‘very beautiful’ and it refers to the beloved daughter of desperate working class mother who wanted to make her five year little modestly talented daughter an actress. She runs for screen test telling her false age, burning her money to teach her acting lessons and grooming and dressing and staking everything she had including her hard earned amount to get her selected for the film. The heart wrenching frustration turned as illusion in the climax. But the realization of it comes much before in that key scene where the lady is editing screen tests films for final selection and the desperate mom wanted to see her daughter’s film suddenly recognized the lady’s face and claimed to watch her performance as an actress in one of the film. It’s hard to digest a fact for a mother that she’s no longer an actress but working on editing as they hired her once or twice as she was the type they needed then. It raised her hopes and dream to be an actress who gradually cost her fiancé and job. The mom eager to see her daughter’s screen test was finally led to projector room and along with her, we witness the poetic image followed by cry and laughter. I don’t want to ruin that experience by describing it any further. But it’s not end, even after that the film takes different turn to make it more positive end and that is the heart of the film.
The film is made by the precursor Master of Italian Neo-realism cinema, Luchino Visconti. Though this underrated gem of Neo-realist cinema belongs to post war
Italy, it focused on the other side
common working class life where the popular art of cinema started building
pipedreams of shift their hard life to imaginary existence. One can clearly see
the power of script here written by Neo-realist cinema’s most significant
writer Cesare Zavattini who penned some of the unforgettable timeless documents
for his long collaborator Vittorio De Sica. And it would be an insult if I
forget to mention the ‘Mamma Roma’ of Italian cinema- the one and only Anna
Magnani who nailed one of her best performance of the mother. Her body
language, face expressions talks louder than anything in the film. She poured
so much heart and soul in her performance that the film wouldn’t be the same
without her presence. Period.