Since September, the Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive has been honoring the great Italian actor Anna Magnani with a career-spanning retrospective of her work. This Saturday, the series continues with Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1962 sophomore feature, Mamma Roma, an evocative drama set in postwar Italy. Both a product of the neorealist tradition and a bold departure from it, the film stars Magnani as a middle-aged prostitute attempting to build a better life for her sixteen-year-old son, whom she abandoned when he was a child. Notorious for his transgressive work and controversial politics, Pasolini faced a great deal of criticism upon the release of the film, which, as Gary Indiana notes in his essay for our release, “was attacked by both the Right and the Left, for opposite reasons, momentarily censured after its premiere at the 1962 Venice Film Festival when a local cop charged it with obscenity, and caused a minor riot when a group of neo-Fascist students invaded its Roman premiere.”
Those in Berkeley can see Mamma Roma this Saturday night on 35 mm. For a look at other films about the oldest profession in the world, check out our series Love for Sale on the Criterion Channel.