Maestro! The Films of Luchino Visconti

Bellissima

Luchino ViscontiItaly114 minutes1951PGB&WItalian

Sat
Aug 11
  • Press & Industry screenings and events are only for accredited passes.
  • Please note that only items from our Quiet Snacks menu may be consumed during this screening. This menu has been selected to ensure our audiences' experience is not disrupted. TIFF is committed to providing the best film-going environment possible for all audience members.

Visconti designed Bellissima as a vehicle for Anna Magnani's outsized talent, and the star and director obviously worked together at perfect pitch: "La Lupa" rampages magnificently as the stage mother to end all stage mothers, treating the scenery like a vast platter of antipasti. (This is the performance that prompted Bette Davis to declare "Anna Magnani is the greatest actress I have ever seen.") Magnani plays a working-class mother obsessed with having her little daughter chosen "the most beautiful child in Rome" in a Cinecittà contest. In pursuit of her dream, she jeopardizes her marriage, squandering all her money on dance lessons and custom-made clothes for her plain, talentless child. La Magnani is cyclonic as the blindly determined matriarch — she frequently improvised, as in the rending cry for help in the bench sequence towards the end — but her performance is only one of many reasons to love Bellissima. Pre-eminent Visconti scholar Geoffrey Nowell-Smith calls the film "in many ways [Visconti's] best" — surrender to Magnani, and you won't disagree.