Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Rome Journal: Mi Ricordo Mamma Roma
painting by Hallie Cohen
Memory cards and gigabytes are the lingua franca of our
culture. A computer may have beat Gary Kasparov at chess, but Rome is a city
where memories are made and no electronic instrument can compete with the
remembrances it weaves. Many Americans may never have heard of it but Pasolini’s
Mamma Romais a mythic film about the
eternal city that Italians generally revere; it’s a filmic
national anthem. The movie tells the story of an aging prostitute (Anna Magnani)
who returns to post war Rome to make a new life for herself and her son (Ettore
Garofolo). Since l962, when the film was released, many of the locations have
taken on an iconic significance. Today lovers of the film make
pilgrimages to locations like the Piazza Tommaso de Cristoforis on the
outskirts of Rome to see the arched entrance to a housing complex, the very
threshold through which Pasolini’s character journeys as she attempts to
fulfill her aspirations for a better life. The original scene frozen in time by
the camera, competes with the first time the shot is emblazoned on the viewer’s
consciousness. Aqueduct Park is another location which plays an important role
in the film in that case linking the ancient Roman aqueducts to the sterile
modernity of Mussolini era housing.As
one returns to the Mecca of sights and sounds which originally inspired the creation of
the film and which themselves continue to evolve in real time, the past is
literally competing with the present. Rome, bathed as it is in antiquities,
is obviously a director’s paradise, but it’s also like a haunting dream with
memories of memories weaving a fabric, a hall of mirrors in which the walker in
the city revisits his or her own past.
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.