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My Mother's Smile

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Product Details

  • Actors: Sergio Castellitto, Jacqueline Lustig, Chiara Conti, Gianfelcie Imparto, Piera Degli Esposti
  • Directors: Marco Bellocchio
  • Writers: Marco Bellocchio
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Letterboxed, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Dubbed: Italian
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: New Yorker Video
  • DVD Release Date: May 16, 2006
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,649 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "My Mother's Smile" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Interview with director Marco Bellocchio
  • Interview with actor Sergio Castellitto
  • A Conversation between Bellocchio and Castellitto
  • "A Day on the Set" featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

As with his feature debut, Fists in the Pocket [1965], Marco Bellocchio’s My Mother’s Smile was deemed blasphemous by the Roman Catholic Church for what the Church referred to as Bellocchio’s "systematic destruction of family and religious values." Contrary to the Church’s presumptions about Bellocchio, My Mother’s Smile is a fascinating portrait of a man (Sergio Castellitto as Ernesto) who is forced to reconcile with his own atheism after receiving a shocking appeal from the Church requesting his participation in the canonization of his "saintly" mother.

The Church supports the claim that Ernesto’s mother held miraculous healing powers, but if she is going to be ordained, the Church needs to prove that her violent death, at the hands of the most unlikeliest person, culminated with a vow of forgiveness for her murderer. Ernesto’s relationship to the murderer provides the Church with its last chance of uncovering the truth, but he is reluctant to succumb to his family’s pressure and schemes. Overwhelmed by the fact that he didn’t sense the conspiracy beneath him, the conflicts haunting him come to the fore and his memory of his mother opens up a gaping chasm that forces him to reconsider the past and live the present differently.


My Mother's Smile, directed by Marco Bellochio (Fists in the Pocket) who is known for challenging Catholism’s stronghold in Italian culture, tells the story of the making of a modern-day saint. Painter Ernesto Picciafuocco's (Sergio Castellitto) mother is about to be canonized, after papal hearings determine whether or not she forgave her other son, Egidio, while he was murdering her. Following the crime, family friend Fillipo Argenti is miraculously healed while thinking of her, solidifying her nomination. Ernesto, an atheist, considers supporting this falsity for the wellbeing and wealth of the family, and for his son, Leonardo, who has growing interest in Catholicism. Leonardo's mother, Irene (Jacqueline Lustig), separated from Ernesto, also urges him to comply with the Cardinal's process. Ernesto, torn between establishing the truth and satisfying his family, embarks on an arduous journey of self-investigation, reinforcing his beliefs that morality is based in honesty rather than on standards dictated by organized religion. Beautifully composed, and well written, My Mother's Smile offers a sophisticated view of sainthood, one acknowledging both its spiritual and political aspects. Ernesto's liberal-minded, philosophical approach to the topic makes heavy religion more palatable while emphasizing the Vatican's cultural influence on Rome. Extras include an interview with Sergio Castellitto, a conversation between Castellitto and Bellochio, and a mini-documentary, "A Day on the Set." --Trinie Dalton

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 11, 2006
Format: DVD
Marco Bellocchio is brave thinker and a fine writer who is unafraid to take on controversial subjects concerning Catholicism in the country where the Vatican watches everything very carefully. His work has been labeled 'blasphemous' but it seems Bellocchio is more interested in stirring the thoughts of his viewers than in defaming religion. MY MOTHER'S SMILE, (Il sorriso di mia madre) or 'Ora di religione' (The Religion Hour)as it is also known in Italy, is a sophisticated look at family, personal spiritual concepts, and honesty in a setting of peculiar circumstances that make for a uniquely fascinating film.

Painter Ernesto Picciafuocco's (Sergio Castellitto) is an atheist, separated from his wife Irene (Jacqueline Lustig) who has custody of his son. His son Leonardo (Alberto Mondini) has, for reasons unknown to Ernesto, become interested in religion and Irene informs Ernesto when he comes to pick up the child that he has been heard speaking to God. What follows this disclosure is a father/son sensitive discussion about Ernesto's atheism and his son's need to believe in an afterlife and a God. Disturbed by his son's state of mind, Ernesto is further challenged by a visit from a Vatican priest who informs Ernesto that his mother is about to be canonized! Ernesto is apparently the last to learn of this turn in family events (being an atheist) and discovers the family is pushing to have the canonization hurried in order to raise their status (and money) in Italy's social realm. Ernesto cannot comprehend why his mother should be made a saint as she has been less of a mother than most: her candidacy is based on the fact that as she was murdered by her own son Egidio (Donato Placido) she forgave him, making her a martyr.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on July 18, 2006
Format: DVD
MY MOTHER'S SMILE caught my interest because it deals with a religious subject: Catholic sainthood, and as a Catholic, saints intrigue me. The story revolves around painter Ernesto Picciafuocco (played by Sergio Castellitto), an atheist who learns that his mother is being considered for canonization. I assumed that the film would have a rather predictable plot, that Ernesto would have a conversion experience based on his mother's saintliness. This is hardly what happens. Ernesto learns that in order for his mother to be canonized, he has to lie and state that his mother died for trying to get stop her son Egidio, Franciscan from blaspheming, thereby making her a martyr. The truth is that Egidio is mentally ill and killed his mother in her sleep, which makes her a victim, and perhaps worthy of sainthood, but not a martyr. The central conflict in the film is whether Ernesto will participate in his family's lie so that the prestige the family once had could be restored, or whether he will be true to himself. I'll let you see for yourself what happens.

The film is not an accurate portrayal of the canonization process in the Catholic Church. One example could be a case in point. In the film, Ernesto's aunt states that canonization is free so the family has nothing to loose. Well the reason Dorothy Day's family and associates have not pushed for her canonization is that the process is not free. The group petitioning for canonization has to pay the costs and Day's family and friends believe she would not have wanted this since she was such an advocate for the poor. She also would not have been too recently deceased. True Mother Teresa's canonization was rather fast and no doubt the same will happen for Pope John Paul II, but the late Mrs. Picciafuocco is not a Mother Teresa or John Paul II.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas S. Smith on March 19, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a superb satire by the great director Marco Bellocchio. Brilliantly made and performed, the film is a scathing denunciation of the dreary opportunism that passes for "spirituality" in the age of John Paul 2 and Silvio Berlusconi.
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By henri schindler on June 29, 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant film with a host of marvelous performances. Marco Bellocchio continues to astonish. The used disc was is very
great condition
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A divorced atheist painter, removed from his family, comes to find out
they are quietly plotting with the Church to have his mother canonized
as a saint - mostly for personal gain and prestige - even though
there's great question as to how much the 'official' version of his
mother's life has been distorted and re-invented to help the cause.

There's something chilling, in a moody, David Lynch, Nic Roeg sort of
way about the handling of this nightmare scenario (the director calls
it 'a very strange thriller'), where a man is pressured to accept his
clearly flawed, cold, and distant mother as a saint 'for the good of
the family'.

But along with it's skewering of people using religion to very
non-religious ends, there's also the pain and confusion of a man
without faith grasping to make sense of life, parenthood, and love.

There are some plot lines that lead nowhere, just leading to more
questions. Some of it gets a little Gothic, to the edge of silly, but
the performances, music and camera-work keep pulling you back in, and
haunting moments have stayed with me.
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