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The Film Society of Lincoln Center and Luce Cinecittà Announce La Magnani, May 18 - June 1

Luce Cinecittà in collaboration with the Film Society of Lincoln Center will host a film retrospective of the brilliant Anna Magnani, the seminal postwar Italian cinema actress. This retrospective will run from May 18th through June 1st, 2016 in New York City. There are 24-films in the series featuring works by leading directors such as Cukor, De Sica, Fellini, Lumet, Renoir, Rossellini, Visconti, and many others. La Magnani highlights the actress’s illustrious international career, including powerhouse performances for directors like Rossellini, Luchino Visconti (Bellissima), Pier PaoloPasolini (Mamma Roma), Federico Fellini (L’amore and Roma), Sidney Lumet (The Fugitive Kind), George Cukor (Wild I s the Wind), William Dieterle (Volcano), Mario Monicelli (The Passionate Thief), and Jean Renoir (The Golden Coach). This diverse survey of Magnani’s filmography also features a number of the actress’s rarely screened early performances, including her third–ever on–screen appearance, as a scheming maid opposite a young Vittorio De Sica in Mario Mattoli’s Full Speed; as a gold - digging showgirl in De Sica’s Doctor, Beware; showing off her distinctive vocal style as an enchanting nightclub performer in Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia’s La vita è bella; as well as her final roles in Alfredo Giannetti’s historical drama1870—the only time she appeared opposite Marcello Mastroianni—and Fellini’s Roma, her farewell to film. The series is the first stop of a traveling retrospective organized by Luce Cinecittà that will continue at film institutions around the United States, including the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and The Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus.

Highlights of films include the ones below. For complete schedule and all screening times visit http://www.filmlinc.org/series/la-magnani/.

Bellissima
This early gem from melodrama maestro Luchino Visconti deftly blends showbiz satire with heart - tugging pathos. When Cinecittà Studios puts out a casting call for a new child actress, they’re flooded with starry-eyed stage mothers and their talentless tots, among them Magnani’s working-class Roman nurse who becomes obsessed with making her (rather indifferent) daughter a star. As in similar Hollywood-plays-itself melodramas (The Bad and the Beautiful, Sunset Boulevard), Bellissima both romanticizes the power of celluloid dreams while delivering a cuttingly cynical takedown of the movie industry. It ultimately achieves real poignancy through Magnani’s affecting performance as a mother  whose desperate drive to succeed is outweighed only by her love for her child. 35mm print courtesy of Luce Cinecittà.

Peddlin’ in Society / Abbasso la ricchezza!
The marvelous Magnani struts, dances (hilariously), and sings her way through this delightful satirical farce. She stars as a nouveau riche former fruit vendor who, having made a fortune on the wartime black market, leases the elegant villa of a dashing Count (Vittorio De Sica) in need of cash. But her newfound fortune and provincial naïveté make her an all-too-easy target for a parade of unscrupulous con artists. The follow-up to Gennaro Righelli’s Down with Misery, this riches–to-rags tale plays like that film in reverse, with political and class tensions never far from the surface. 35mm print courtesy of Luce Cinecittà.

La sciantosa
In one of four tour-de-force historical dramas Magnani made for Italian television in the early 1970s (all directed by Alfredo Giannetti, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Divorce Italian Style), she dazzles as a washed-up cabaret star who receives an invitation to perform for soldiers fighting on the front lines of World War I. What the faded diva imagines to be a comeback engagement becomes a transformative experience when she is confronted with the realities of war. Magnani’s status as the living symbol of her country is concretized in the powerful image of her delivering a tear-stained rendition of the Neapolitan ballad “O surdato ’nnammurato.” 35mm print courtesy of Luce Cinecittà.

Volcano / Vulcano
While Magnani’s ex-lover Roberto Rossellini was shooting Stromboli with his new Hollywood girlfriend Ingrid Bergman, the Italian actress was filming this rival neorealist drama—also about a woman stranded on a hostile volcanic island—just a few miles away. The result was tabloid gold, as well as a genuinely fascinating movie in which Magnani plays a prostitute banished from Naples and forced to return to the hardscrabble island of her childhood. There, she is shunned by the community’s moralistic denizens as she tries to save her younger sister (Geraldine Brooks) from being seduced by a shady deep-sea diver (Rossano Brazzi). Helmed by German emigré Hollywood director William Dieterle, Volcano is a delirious blend of neorealist tropes—a gritty working-class milieu, sunlit location shooting, docu-realist fishing scenes—and juicy melodrama involving sunken treasure, sex trafficking, murder, and that volcano just waiting to erupt. 35mm print courtesy of Luce Cinecittà.

Down with Misery / Abbasso la miseria!
Released the same year as Magnani’s international breakthrough, Rome Open City, this tenderhearted comedy charts the mayhem that ensues when an honest truck driver (Nino Besozzi) unwittingly gets mixed up in black-market smuggling and winds up adopting a streetwise orphan—much to the chagrin of his no-nonsense wife (Magnani). Something like a neorealist fairy tale, Down with Misery roots its charming wisp of a story in the none-too-rosy economic reality of postwar Italy to create a bittersweet look at downtrodden people striving for a better tomorrow. 35mm print courtesy of Luce Cinecittà.

The Peddler and the Lady / Campo de’ fiori
Two years before they starred opposite each other in Rome Open City, Magnani and Aldo Fabrizi headlined this bittersweet comedy. He plays a humble fishmonger in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori marketplace who winds up way out of his league when he begins wooing a beautiful young woman (Caterina Boratto) who’s not all she seems. Meanwhile, Magnani—in the first of the earthy everywoman roles she would become known for—provides emotional gravitas as the brash, secretly-in-love-with-him fruit seller who pulls him back down to earth. The simple premise is lent nice depth by Magnani and Fabrizi, both nimbly balancing humor and heartstring-plucking poignancy. 35mm print courtesy of Luce Cinecittà.