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TIFF Bell Lightbox, in collaboration with the Istituto Italiano di Cultura and Cinecittà Luce, presents a retrospective of 23 films dedicated to Anna Magnani, one of the greatest actresses of the 20th century. The retropsective will open on January 27with a 4k digital restoration of Rosselini’s Rome, Open City, the film that launched Magnani’s brilliant carrer as an international star.


Fri Jan 27; Fri Feb 3 at 6:30pm
Rome, Open City / Roma città aperta by Roberto Rossellini; Italy; 106 minutes; 1945;

Sat Jan 28 at 6:30pm
Mamma Roma by Pier Paolo Pasolini; Italy; 105 minutes; 1962; PG; B&W; Italian

Sun Jan 29 at 2:45pm
The Passionate Thief/ Risate di gioia by Mario Monicelli; Italy; 105 minutes; 1960; PG; B&W; Italian

Fri Feb 3 at 6:30pm
Bellissima preceded by Anna Magnani; 132 minutes; PG

Sat Feb 4 at 7:30pm
Down with Misery/ Abbasso la miseria! by Gennaro Righelli; Italy90 minutes1945; PG; B&W; Italian

Sun Feb 5 at 4:15pm
The Peddler and the Lady / Campo de’ fiori by Mario Bonnard; Italy; 95 minutes; 1943; PG; B&W; Italian

Tue Feb 7 at 6:30pm
Wild is the Wind by George Cukor; USA; 114 minutes; 1957; PG; B&W; Italian English

Thu Feb 9 at 6:30pm
The Rose Tattoo by Daniel Mann; USA; 117 minutes; 1955; PG; B&W; English Italian

Sun Feb 12 at 4:00pm
The Fugitive Kind by Sidney Lumet; USA; 121 minutes; 1960; 14A; B&W; English

Tue Feb 14 at 6:30pm
L’Amore followed by The Bandit 147 minutes; PG

Thu Feb 16 at 6:30pm
Angelina / L’onorevole Angelina by Luigi Zampa; Italy; 90 minutes; 1947; 14A; B&W; Italian

Thu Feb 23 at 6:30pm
Teresa Venerdi by Vittorio De Sica; Italy; 94 minutes; 1941; 14A; B&W; Italian

Fri Feb 24 at 8:30pm
Fellini’s Roma by Federico Fellini; Italy / France; 128 minutes; 1972; R; Colour; Italian German English French Spanish

Sat Feb 25 at 1:00pm
The Golden Coach/ Le Carosse d’or by Jean Renoir; Italy / France; 100 minutes; 1952; PG; Colour; English

Sun Feb 26 at 1:00pm
Peddlin’ in Society / Abbasso la ricchezza! by Gennaro Righelli; Italy; 85 minutes; 1946; B&W; Italian

Tue Feb 28 at 6:30pm
Volcano / Vulcano by William Dieterle; Italy; 106 minutes; 1950; 14A; B&W; Italian

Thu Mar 2 at 6:30pm
La Sciantosa by Alfredo Giannetti; Italy; 92 minutes; 1971; 14A; Colour; Italian

Fri Mar 3 at 9:00pm
The Secret of Santa Vittoria by Stanley Kramer; USA; 139 minutes; 1969; English

Sun Mar 5 at 6:45pm
…And the Wild Women / Nella città l’inferno by Renato Castellani; Italy / France; 106 minutes; 1959; PG; B&W; Italian

Tue Mar 7 at 6:30pm
Full Speed / Tempo massimo by Mario Mattoli; Italy; 78 minutes; 1934; PG; B&W; Italian

Fri Mar 10 at 9:00pm
1870 / Correva l’anno di grazia 1870 by Alfredo Giannetti; Italy; 116 minutes; 1972; PG; Colour; Italian

Sat Mar 11 at 1:30pm
Life is Beautiful followed by Woman Trouble; 160 minutes; PG

UNLIKE BETTE DAVIS, with whom she became best pals and formed a mutual admiration sorority, Italian actress Anna Magnani did not choose minor or B-list directors so that she could exert her imperious self on every aspect of her films.
Instead, Magnani’s filmography offers a roster of great auteurs — Rossellini, Visconti, Pasolini, Fellini, De Sica, Renoir, Monicelli, Lattuada — many of whom devised movies especially for her. That Magnani did not appear in any Antonioni film is hardly surprising: a diva who typically treated the scenery like a vast platter of antipasti had no business in that maestro’s anxious,
muted universe. Burt Lancaster, her co-star in The Rose Tattoo, observed, “If she had not found acting as an outlet for her enormous
vitality, she would have become ‘a great criminal.’” Many accounts of the making of Rossellini’s epochal Rome, Open City accept its self-made myths about the film’s neorealist purity, emphasizing that the cast was made up almost exclusively of non-professionals. “The actors came from the streets of Rome!” brayed a 1961 film magazine, but that city has many chic vias, to which Magnani was no stranger. Magnani had long been celebrated as a nightclub singer (often compared to Edith Piaf) and theatre star, and, as this retrospective illustrates, she had many plum film roles in the two decades prior to her heartbreaking performance as Pina in Open City; stealing scenes became her speciality even in her smallest parts, and when given major billing (as in Mario Bonnard’s The Peddler and the Lady, which established her earthy persona) she immediately won the nation’s adoration.

Capable of refined elegance despite her coarse, stormy features — her copious mouth often widened in raucous laughter — Magnani could traverse the world of aristocrats, but her allegiance was always to il popolo: “I hate respectability,” she once proclaimed,
“Give me the life of the streets, of common people.” Consequently, her roles tended to the low-caste and brassy: fruit vendors, prostitutes, molls, convicts, stage mothers, film extras and (most frequently) long-suffering proletarian wives.
Equally at home in farce and tragedy, melodrama and comedy, the ferocious Magnani earned the sobriquet “La Lupa” (“The She-Wolf”) for her volatility and voraciousness. A lot of “v” words seem to cluster around Magnani, especially the unavoidable “volcanic,” with its many igneous synonyms; Vesuvius is another common analogy for her lava-like eruptions. The comparison
became literal when her erstwhile lover Rossellini, who had devised a double bill of films under the rubric L’Amore as “an homage to the art of Anna Magnani,” shifted his professional and romantic devotion to Ingrid Bergman and set off to a barren Aeolian island to make Stromboli. Taking her revenge, Magnani ensconced herself on an adjacent isle to make the very similar
Volcano — though it was ultimately Rossellini’s film that became a landmark in international cinema, while Volcano only received its due after a recent restoration. (A reconciled Rossellini lovingly tended Magnani in her final month as she died of pancreatic cancer, and she was buried in his family’s tomb.)
“Magnani is the last of the great shameless emotionalists,” commented Volcano director William Dieterle. “You have to go back to the silent movies for that kind of acting.” Tennessee Williams discerned the same instinctive quality in her art, conceiving the character of the yearning widow Serafina in The Rose Tattoo with Magnani in mind. After meeting her in 1950 — she kept him waiting for almost an hour — the gay playwright conferred aspects of her nature upon even those female characters not directly modelled on Magnani.

Though the actress was capable of the occasional slur — she referred to the homosexual Austrian dancer Harry Feist, who played a vicious, swishy Nazi in Rome, Open City, as “a big queer” — she and Williams became fast friends and then inseparable soulmates, trading campy observations on her terrace overlooking the Piazza Minerva and the Pantheon; he admired her naked honesty,
boisterous wit, and unconventionality, she his wounded sensitivity and outsider’s acute insight. It is the poetic Williams who perhaps best captured Magnani’s magnetism: “She is simply a rare being who seems to have about her a little lightning-shot cloud all her own…. In a crowded room she can sit perfectly motionless and silent and still you feel the atmospheric tension of her presence, its quiver and hum in the air like a live wire exposed.

(James Quandt)

  • Organized by: TIFF Bell Lightbox
  • In collaboration with: Istituto Italiano di Cultura; Cinecittà Luce