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Bellissima Movie Review

visconti magnani luchino mother

Luchino Visconti's Bellissima focuses on a marginal fixture at Cinecitta studios: the ubiquitous stage mother. Anna Magnani wants stardom for her little girl and a better life for her small brood. In America, the stage mother is rarely shown as anything other than a selfish, conniving bitch who mercilessly exploits her offspring; the 1955 performance of Jo Van Fleet as Lillian Roth's mother in Daniel Mann's I'll Cry Tomorrow is a good example. But in Italy, with a director willing to examine the economic conditions that ignited stage mothers, stardom for children is shown as an escape from poverty for entire families. Magnani's deep emotional understanding of her character lets her get away with sequences which few other actresses could inject with sympathy. Bellissima is marred by a moralistic and unbelievable conclusion that Visconti reportedly fought hard to resist. Like all of Magnani's films, however, Bellissima demands compulsive attention because of the riveting presence of its star.

1951 130m/B IT Anna Magnani, Walter Chiari, Alessandro Blasetti, Tina Apicella, Gastone Renzelli; D: Luchino Visconti; W: Luchino Visconti, Cesare Zavattini, Francesco Rosi, Suso Cecchi D'Amico; C: Piero Portalupi, Paul Ronald. VHS

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