A talent for invention

Bellissima, Luchino Visconti
Anna Magnani, Walter Chiari “Bellissima” Luchino Visconti 1952

The scene on the river with Walter Chiari was entirely her invention… and also the scene when she remains alone with the child in the deserted piazza. That pained cry for help was hers, and hers alone.
Luchino Visconti

Bellissima” by Luchino Visconti 1952 – Saturday 11th 2016 Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago



Luchino Visconti: The story really was a pretext. My whole subject was Magnani: I wanted to create a portrait of a woman out of her

Anna Magnani
“Acting, what’s there to it?”

The story really was a pretext. My whole subject was Magnani: I wanted to create a portrait of a woman out of her, a contemporary woman, a mother, and I think we succeeded because Magnani lent me her enormous talent, her personality. That was what interested me. Not so much the cinema setting. It’s been said that I wanted to make something ironic, malicious even, of this setting, but wasn’t what I had in mind.
Luchino Visconti

New York, May 1953

It is quite in order to find Anna Magnani, the reigning queen of the burgeoning Roman film colony, in ‘Bellissima,’ an Italian drama with more than soupçon of comedy that justifiably serves as a tour de force for its magnetic star. For the import, which arrived at the Sixtieth Street Trans-Lux on Saturday, obviously was designed for her not inconsiderable talents and, as such, it is a worthy, moving and purposeful vehicle, as compassionate and incisive a portrait of mother love as any. And if the writers digress into unnecessary channels on occasion, it does not matter too much. Miss Magnani is “on stage” almost continuously and in explosively fine fettle, which is reward enough.


Honesty, it appears, is the keystone of the story structure, the producers  approach to it and, of course, Miss Magnani‘s portrayal. The last is a succession of sharply defined vignettes ranging from tragic heartbreak to typical gesture-full comedy in which the rich Italian argot often is left untranslated in the English subtitles. Above all, her passionate display of emotions rarely leans on dialogue for effectiveness. She is, alternately, a proud, protective and instinctively wise mother, who is ready to run the risk of losing the savings that mean a better home for her family in order to provide unselfishly a career for her youngster. And, she is prepared to take the beatings of her outraged spouse of the same reason, or, in excited fashion, exchange insults with her mother-in-law.


Anna Magnani is heard to muse out loud. “Acting, what’s there to it?” Miss Magnani is proof that there certainly is quite a lot to it.