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 Roma is 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.

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