Film Review: TIFF Cinematheque Presents – The Films of Anna Magnani

TIFF Cinematheque Presents – The Films of Anna Magnani

This series of Anna Magnani films, with quite a few not screened for a long time, runs from Jan 27th  right up to March 11th.  The Series is entitled:

Volcano: The Films of Anna Magnani

A deluxe tribute to “the She-Wolf of Italian cinema

For the complete list of Magnani films, the dates, venue and ticket pricing,please click on the link below:

Capsule Reviews of selected films follows:

(The Full Review for THE PASSIONATE THIEF is available in a separate post on this site).


BELLISSIMA (Italy 1951) ****

Directed by Luchino Visconti

BELLISSIMA is about a mother doing everything trying to get her daughter into show business.  Though set decades ago, the film is till relevant seeing how people these days do the same to audition for the realty shows.  The film works as a comedy that is even more hilarious and relevant thanks to the performance of Anna Magnani.  She plays a nurse making a living giving injections while giving her daughter the best audition dress, ballet lessons and acting lessons.  If she is not scramming away, she is praying or sucking unto her macho typcll

MAMMA ROMA (Italy 1962) ****

Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini

An ex-prostitute, Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani in her best role), tries to start a new life selling vegetables with her 16-year-old son Ettore (Ettore Garofolo). When he later finds out that she was a prostitute, he succumbs to the dark side ending with the petty theft of a radio in a hospital and goes to prison.  This is a tragic tale of mother and son, mother wanting too much for her son while he just wanting to be left to his own devices. Pasolini’s film contains lots of homoerotic images like Ettore’s friend wrestling him to the ground and Ettore being strapped down to his underwear in the hospital.  Pasolini also captures the period, classes atmosphere and hopeless of is tale with clarity and emotion.

Screening Jan 28h

Directed by Mario Monicelli


THE PASSIONATE THIEF (RISATE DI GIOIA) marks the collaboration between dramatic actress Anna Magnani and famed comedian Toto.  It is a perfect match as director Monicelli’s film is a perfect blend between drama and comedy.  The film follows two friends, Umberto and Gioia (Toto and Magnani) who live by their wits working as comedians and cabaret at Cinecittà (the famous cinema production studios centre in Rome), before being invited to friends’ parties or masked balls during New Year’s Eve in Rome.  The two, however, even though they make people laugh all the time in public, live an inner conflict, namely that the two have always to be aware to give a smile to someone, but they can never be rich and happy because they are street artists and with a precarious wage.  The meeting with another thief, the well-dressed Lello (Ben Gazzara who appears to speak perfect Italian) throws their relationship into peril.  The film is more drama than comedy.  The audience can clearly sympathize with both the characters of Umberto and Gioia as they both grab at straws to escape the drowning from poverty.  Gioia is hoping for love in the much younger Lello while Umberto finally goes clean in order to save Gioia from Lello.  THE PASSIONATE THEIF looks like a simple film on the surface, but is deep in mood, atmosphere, feeling and life under deeper scrutiny.


Screening Jan 29th

ROME OPEN CITY (Italy 1946) ***** Top 10

Directed by Roberto Rossellini


Rossellini’s ROME – OPEN CITY follows Italian resistance fighters and workers as they struggle through hardship and tyranny to etch out a barely decent daily living with their families while just putting enough food on the table. If not fighting the enemy, the Italians are humorously screaming among themselves. The film centres on expecting Pina (Anna Magnani), a widow with son, Marcello about to be married again. Rossellini captures the essence of war in the details and warmth of the characters. A fly can be seen on the priest’s cloak while dust is plentiful after the bombings. The priest is seen playing football with the school children, then passing messages to the underground and also giving confession to those requiring forgiveness. A very moving film made even more riveting with the famous segment of the pregnant Anna Magnani shot by the Germans as she runs from the three-tonner. This is a must-see, one of the best war films made during war time.

Screening Jan 27th

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