Part social critique, part melodrama and entirely thrilling, this is probably one of Pasolini’s most mainstream and “linear” films, much closer in theme and feel to his Italian neo-realist peers. As with many of these films, the sacrifices the women make for their men lead to tragedy but, more important, serve to illustrate their fearlessness – the decadence, hypocrisy, and machismo of urban Italian society cannot diminish their light. However, unlike the tragic Antonioni women, Mamma Roma is spared the soullessness of bourgeois life despite the external trappings and her new sources of power. For better or for worse, her life will always be of the streets, and strangely, this saves the film from utter despair. You know it will end badly, but it is worth watching to the end, if only to watch Anna Magnani at her bawdy, beautiful, and defiant best.
Mamma Roma, dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini, 110 min. Arco Film et al., 1962. In Italian.
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