Bellissima (Masters of Cinema) DVD
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Directed by Luchino Visconti
Produced in 1951
Main Language - Italian with English subtitles
In a performance of wondrously robust and ebullient wilfulness, Anna Magnani plays a mother who dreams of screen stardom for her child, dragging her poor little mite of a stuttering, lisping daughter along to an audition by ‘Stella Film’ for the lead part in their next film. Her ambition for the child, fuelled partly by a wish to escape the poverty of their rented housing and partly by the large screen of the outdoor cinema that shows Hollywood films she can watch from her back yard, leads her to spend every penny of the money she can earn as a nurse dispensing injections to diabetic patients in her neighbourhood, and every penny of her life savings too: on a studio photograph, on a dress, on recitation lessons from an odd out of work actress, on ballet classes, on a bribe that she suspects will be wasted, and is. And where does all of this effort lead? To a poignant, enraging rasp of truth at the back of a screening room, where she secretly watches with her daughter as the director and his assistants cruelly comment on the young actresses’ performances.
A satire on the perceived glamour of the movie industry, this is also a comedy with a core of heartbreaking truth. It shows Visconti’s neo-realist style moving towards stylisation and theatricality, and also gives us a fascinating glimpse into the Cinecittà complex as it was in the early 1950s.
The film belongs to Magnani though. Her amazing central performance led Bette Davis to exclaim, ‘This is Magnani, tempestuous. This is Magnani, brilliant and uninhibited. This is Magnani full of volcanic, earthy power. This is Magnani, tender, poignant, and unbelievably stirring.’ Yes, this is Magnani, and it is part of the film’s rich irony that, in revealing the shallowness of stardom and the heartless machinations of the movie industry, she should be such an undeniable star presence.
This Masters of Cinema DVD comes in a beautiful print indeed. An accompanying documentary provides interviews with many of the distinguished participants in the production – assistant directors Francesco Rosi and Franco Zeferelli and screenwriter Suso Cecchi d’Amico among them. A superb addition to Visconti’s films on DVD.
Graeme Hobbs on 5th September 2007
Author of 276 reviews
A satire on the motivations and machinations at work in the film industry, with the famous Cinecittà studios as a backdrop. Maddalena (Anna Magnani) is a screenstruck mother convinced of her daughter's star potential. Dreaming of a better life for her family - as a means of escape from the struggles of everyday existence in working-class Rome – she invests everything, including her last penny, into the dream that her daughter will be discovered at an open casting. However, on overhearing the film crew’s candid assessment of her daughter’s audition (in what Variety described in 1952 as “one of the cruellest scenes ever filmed”) Maddalena is forced to reconsider her views on the film industry and its world of illusions.
Written by Cesare Zavattini (Bicycle Thieves), Bellissima stars Italy’s most famous actress, Oscar-winning Anna Magnani in a bravura performance in this exposé of the false dreams and shallow fantasies behind the screen.
Publisher: Eureka / Masters of Cinema
Length: 109 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3 Full Frame
Cat No: EKA40256
Format: DVD B&W
Subtitles: English (on film and extras)
- New high-definition progressive transfer
- New and improved optional English subtitles
- A Proposito di Bellissima (31:42)
- Video interview with Bellissima co-screenwriter and assistant director Francesco Rosi
- Original theatrical trailer
- 32-page illustrated booklet containing writing by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith and much more.
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