Italy, 1962 (MIFF 1963)

Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini

One of the year's most personal films, unmistakably the work of its creator - writer turned directo, Pier Paolo Pasolini - Mamma Roma is about an ageing prostitute who breaks from her pimp in an attempt to reform her son and get him a respectable job as a waiter. Pasolini has discovered for himself an imaginative new language. This is evident in the opening scenes - the big, bare, country room, with its plebian meal and scampering pigs - and throughout the film: the whiplash exchanges between the prostitute, her one-time pimp, and his peasant wife; in the tracking shots of Anna Magnani's night wanderings; her senseless tirades, her improvised dialogue; and in the scene in which her son is initiated into love-making, in a dusty country lane, by a local little tart.

Magnani's portrait of the impetuous, feckless prostitute has the expected vivid exuberance. The figure of the boy is drawn with affectionate insight, and that of the pimp is drily and sharply outlined. The locations around Rome, the use of Vivaldi's music to underline the drama, the fluidity of style and the balance between action and performance, combine to give Mamma Roma its immediate impact.

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