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Mamma Roma (The Criterion Collection)

4.7 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Anna Magnani is Mamma Roma, a middle-aged prostitute who attempts to extricate herself from her sordid past for the sake of her son. Filmed in the great tradition of Italian neorealism, Mamma Roma offers an unflinching look at the struggle for survival in postwar Italy, and highlights director Pier Paolo Pasolini#s lifelong fascination with the marginalized and dispossessed. Though banned upon its release in Italy for obscenity, today Mamma Roma is considered a classic: a glimpse at a country#s most controversial director in the process of finding his style and a powerhouse performance by one of cinema#s greatest actresses.


Combining the immediacy of Italian neorealism with potent criticism of post-war Italian society, Mamma Roma is one of Pier Paolo Pasolini's most accessible and satisfying films. This was only his second feature, but Pasolini (who was mysteriously murdered in 1975) was already demonstrating a powerful affinity for cinema as a forum for his anti-Fascist ideology. To express his outrage at the spiritual vacancy of vulgar consumerism, Pasolini cast the great Anna Magnani in the title role, a former prostitute struggling to transcend her sordid past in a desperate attempt to give her estranged teenage son the better life she never had. In Pasolini's worldview, Mamma's petit bourgeois idealism can only be doomed, and the film assumes the melodramatic thrust of tragic opera. Like most of Pasolini's films, Mamma Roma attracted controversy, but it was nothing compared to the outcry over "La ricotta," a 35-minute short featuring Orson Welles (part of the 1963 anthology film RoGoPaG, and included here for the first time on DVD). Seized and condemned "for insulting the religion of the state," "La ricotta" presents the crucifixion of Christ as an incendiary criticism of the Catholic Church, in which the actor playing Jesus stuffs himself with ricotta cheese and dies from indigestion on the cross!

As usual, Criterion has done an exemplary job of assembling a wealth of supplementary materials. Pasolini's films demand at least rudimentary understanding of his life and politics, and that background is provided through new interviews with former collaborators, a clip-laden 1995 documentary about Pasolini's career, and a 32-page booklet containing excerpts of interviews from the out-of-print book Pasolini on Pasolini, along with a mini-essay on Mamma Roma that further illuminates the film in the context of Pasolini's controversial career. For anyone interested in Pasolini's art, this two-disc set provides a suitable starting point, offering important films and scholarly study in the esteemed Criterion tradition. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • New digital transfer with restored image and sound plus new subtitle translation
  • Three new interviews about director Pier Paol Pasolini, featuring his cinematographer, a biographer, and Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Pier Paolo Pasolini (1995), a 55-minute documentary by filmmaker Ivo Barnabo Micheli covering the career of the controversial artist
  • La ricotta (1963), a 35-minute film by Pasolini about a director who sets out to make a film about the Passion of Jesus
  • Poster Gallery
  • 32-page book featuring a new essay by novelist and cultural critic Gary Indiana

Product Details

  • Actors: Anna Magnani, Ettore Garofolo, Franco Citti, Silvana Corsini, Luisa Loiano
  • Directors: Ivo Barnabò Micheli, Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Roberto Rossellini, Ugo Gregoretti
  • Writers: Ivo Barnabò Micheli, Jean-Luc Godard, Gianni Rondolino
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: June 22, 2004
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0001ZIVAA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,846 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mamma Roma (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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The legendary Pier Paolo Pasolini was an essayist, poet, political activist, and a film maker who made Mamma Roma in the 60s as Anna Magnani requested to make a film with him. The result of the collaboration between the two left the world with a marvelous cinematic experience. However, Mamma Roma was condemned after its release as it was deemed immoral. Mamma Roma is not Pasolini's most famous film, but it is an essential piece of cinematic history as it tackles many different issues such as the catholic church, prostitution, and parenting.
The tale begins with Mamma Roma (Anna Magnani) who has recently gotten rid of her pimp boyfriend as he has married another woman. Delighted Mamma Roma seeks out her 16-year-old son Ettore whom she has not seen since infancy as she struggles with her guilt of deserting Ettore when he was a baby. She is also ashamed of her past as a prostitute and wants to start over as a fruit vendor and be the mother she never was for Ettore. However, Mamma Roma has no skills in raising a child and is even less equipped to handle a teenager that has been neglected since childhood. This is in the backdrop of Mamma Roma's old boyfriend threatening to unveil her secret to her son, and her political thoughts of injustices in the 60s Italy.
Mamma Roma is an exploration of the symbiosis that exists between mother and son, but Pasolini removes this connection between the Mamma Roma and Ettore as she abandoned Ettore at infancy. The abandonment leaves the audience with the gap between Mamma Roma and Ettore. This gap is closely examined as Mamma Roma and Ettore initially reunite in order to later drift apart due to years of missing parental guidance.
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That's pretty much what this film is about. For those of you who don't know "figlio di puttana" is Italian for "a whore's son" or "son of a whore". It is a common everyday Italian insult. It's used in the same way as the North American saying "son of a bitch."
This was my first time watching a film by Pier Paulo Pasolini and I was extremely impressed. I plan to watch all of his films in the near future. As I stated before Mamma Roma is a story about a whore (Mamma Roma) and her son (Ettore). I won't write any more about the story than what I already have. A review that reveals too much about a film really doesn't serve as a review but rather as a boring synopsis.
I would like to say that Criterion has done an amazing job with this DVD. The special features on this 2 disc set are really good and contain some very rare documentaries and short films. The DVD also contains Pasolini's previously banned, short and shocking film "La Ricotta." It stars Orson Welles and is a gem worth buying all it's own. It's the best special feature I have ever seen on a Criterion disc. Die hard fans of Orson Welles should really pick this DVD up. Even if they don't like Mamma Roma that short film is worth it alone.
5 Stars.
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This is one of my favorite black and white films - it is black and white in the true sense of the words - the whites stand out and the blacks are dark - no half tones. Pasolini and Tonino Delli Colli had a fine collaboration here - the framing is exquisite.

Not to mention the acting, some have said Magnani was the wrong choice (including Pasolini) - but I think she really lights up this film - and provides an emotion no other actress would have achieved.

5 stars without hesitation.
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... is not only the prostitute Mamma Roma, who attempts to recover a semblance of respectability in order to launch her teenage son toward a better career than either farming or petty theft. Mamma Roma is loud, lewd, vulgar, irrepressible, and supremely vital. Her vitality takes a beating, however, as her son responds to her struggles to educate him with his own stubborn individuality. It's obvious from the start that poverty and societal degradation will thwart a mother's bravest intentions. Poverty IS degrading, as portrayed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the most ardent Communist among the Italian 'neo-realist' film-makers who emerged during and after the Fascist debacle of World War 2. Pasolini was a poet and philosopher long before he began making films, and he was arguably the last poet ever to be able to provoke frantic outrage in a reading public. "Mamma Roma" was his second film, released in 1962. It was and is nowhere near his most shocking or controversial film. In fact, it's a modest melodrama -- no violence, no nudity, no scatology, no sacrilege -- rendered brilliant by Pasolini's powerful script and by the unforgettable acting of Anna Magnani in the title role.

But don't forget that Pasolini was a poet first. This film, so seemingly a tale of personal tragedy, is also a complex symbolist image of Italian society. Mamma Roma the woman is a synecdoche of the city Rome, the "eternal mother" of Western civilization. Rome is as much the title character as Magnani, and Rome is also a worn-out but enduring putana (the Italian word for 'prostitute'). The setting of the story in effect tells the story.
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