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Product Details

  • Format: Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Koch
  • Release Date: March 13 2012
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • ASIN: B006MHZ32K
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #87,579 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 12 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnani Mesmerizes As The Ultimate Stage Mother: Two Visconti Classics Arrive On DVD March 7 2012
By K. Harris - Published on
Format: DVD
The post-World War II films that emerged from Italy from the mid-forties to the early fifties represent, to me, one of the strongest and most vital periods of filmmaking ever. Some truly great directors worked within the Italian neorealism film movement, and the gritty and truthful movies they made really captured a country in moral and economic transition. These films were grounded in real characters (often portrayed by non-actors) struggling with relatable problems of every day existence with recurrent themes of poverty and desperation. And yet, they were also filled with such life, passion, and simplicity. Relying on concise storytelling and genuine human emotion, these films just feel inherently real even so many decades later. One of the masters of the period, Luchino Visconti, has two classics being dropped onto the DVD market on the same day: a re-release of 1948's "La Terra Trema" (long out of print) and 1951's "Bellissima" (incredibly getting its North American DVD debut). Of course, anyone with an interest in international cinema should have a particular interest in these titles.

La Terra Trema (4 stars): Of the two films, this might be the purest example of neorealism. The entire film takes place on location in an Italian coastal village. The cast is made up of non-professional actors who really seem to be at one with the material. The lengthy film (2 hours and 40 minutes) charts the disintegration of a typical Sicilian fishing clan. When the family gets tired of being taken advantage of by local wholesalers, they embark on a brave plan to work for themselves and take their product direct to market with no middleman. But their effort to better their existence is met with contempt by the town and when they fall into hardship, their troubles are met with indifference and pettiness. This is no fairy tale, but a bitterly unpleasant look at a family ostracized by their ambition (which is nothing more than to make a reasonable living). How unforgivable! The film doesn't shy away from despair and has both a quiet power and a surprising dignity that gets under your skin.

Bellissima: (4 1/2 stars): It's unfathomable to me that a Visconti film starring the incredible Anna Magnani (Oscar winner for The Rose Tattoo) hasn't been available on DVD in the U.S. market by now! Bellissima also tells the story of a family, but this one resides in the city. Magnani plays a put-upon housewife, nurse, and starstruck dreamer who sees an open audition for child actresses as the big break she needs to achieve wealth and status. She secretly takes her daughter to a huge casting call, meets some questionable representation, and proceeds to risk everything their family has for a potential shot at movie making glory. It's almost painful to see the choices that Magnani makes, but she is so driven. At any moment, it seems that disaster and disillusionment will be looming--and the entire experience is quite unsettling. Magnani, as an actress, is (as always) a force to be reckoned with. Without a pause, this performance is almost like a non-stop monologue as she is front and center (and vocal) for just about every scene. It's powerful stuff, and there's no one else like Magnani. If you like her, this is a can't miss proposition.

The two Visconti films certainly stand the test of time. One is driven by unknowns, one is driven by star wattage. But together, they showcase two different types of people who share similar dreams of economic independence. Let's hope these releases by a pretty high profile company (Entertainment One) represent a willingness to bring more previously unavailable international classics to a modern audience. KGHarris, 3/12.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magnani's Performance Highlights This Film Sept. 16 2012
By Stephen C. Bird - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Although I am a bonafide fan of neither Luchino Visconti nor neorealism (I prefer surrealism) -- I found this to be one of Visconti's better films (along with "Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli" & "The Damned"). Frankly I watched this picture for Anna Magnani -- Who, as other Amazon reviewers of this product have noted -- Is a tour-de-force here in the role of Maddalena, a hyper-driven stage mother. La Magnani is better in her Italian films than she is in her American ones (IE "The Rose Tattoo", "Orpheus Descending") -- As her charisma finds its ultimate channel via her native language. Although I also enjoyed Magnani in Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Mamma Roma" -- "Bellissima" features the best work of Magnani that I have seen thus far.

My only major criticism of this picture is that certain scenes move quite slowly -- Perhaps in an effort by Visconti to illuminate the characters and to flesh out the context. But this meandering seems unnecessary and / or tedious -- Especially given the straightforward, simple and linear nature of the story. On the other hand -- The film's sometime slowness is most likely a stylistic component of the "realism" (or neorealism).

In closing -- "Bellissima" works well as a cautionary tale concerning: (1) the perils and pitfalls of show business -- With its inherent hustling, cruelty and dishonesty; (2 the negative consequences of an obsession (in this case, Maddalena's) with the fantasy world of cinema; and (3) the danger inherent in the potential exploitation of child actors. All of this being said -- In the end Maddalena sees through the falsity of it all and cuts her losses -- Hopefully having learned a lesson in the process.

Stephen C. Bird, Author of "Any Resemblance To A Coincidence Is Accidental"
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buautiful Film Fantastic Acting May 9 2011
By Burr - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Anna Magnani is my favorite actress of all time. She could act more with just her facial expressions than most other actors could combining verbal with body expression. The story is a simple one, a willful stage mother trying to get her young daughter into the movies via a star search contest at Rome's Cinecitta studios. The time is post war Italy, economic recovery is slow and money is scarce. Her husband Spartaaco regards this quest for stardom to be a waste of time but Maddalena pursues it vigorously eventually spending all their savings. There is a pivotal scene where Maddalena is watching her daughters screen test. Here is where Magnani's abiltiy use expression so effectively is most pronounced. Her facial expressions go from happy to confused to angry to resignation as to what is actually going on in the screening. The scene is also a pivitol one to the plot which changes Maddelena so drastically.
I have always been a fan of Italian neo-realist cinema being of Italian descent myself and this film is one of the best. Unfortunately it has not been released in the United States but I have an all regions DVD player. Overall one of Magnami's best efforts and I am so glad to finally be able to experience it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Do the right thing, Italian style! Oct. 1 2014
By Turfseer - Published on
Format: DVD
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

'Bellissima' begins with a radio presentation of Donizetti's opera L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love). In it, a poor peasant, Nemorino, falls in love with Adina, a beautiful landowner. He relies on a charlatan's magic potion that he believes will help him to gain Adina's love. We're suddenly interrupted by an announcement of a casting competition for (real-life) director Alessandro Blasetti, who is searching for a child, age 6 to 8, to star in his latest film. 'Bellissima' is heralded director Luchino Visconti's third film and he wastes no time in introducing us to the crazy world of the Italian film industry, where a large gaggle of star struck stage mothers accompanied by their little tots are attempting to get their 'big break' in the movie business.

Perhaps the most determined of all the mothers is our protagonist, Maddalena Cecconi, played by subsequent Oscar winner, the superb Anna Magnani. She lives in a working-class tenement with her equally 'passionate' husband, Spartaco, who both appear to be good parents to little Maria, the unprecocious child who Maddalena is convinced is the next 'Shirley Temple'. Like Nemorino in Donizetti's opera, Maddalena needs a magic potion to escape the drab existence which she perceives is her life--and that magic potion is the film contract which will enable her to live vicariously through her daughter's success. If Spartaco tries to convince his obsessed wife that motion pictures are just a 'fantasy', Maddalena will have none of it--every week there's another Hollywood picture projected on the big screen in the building's courtyard and Maddalena is enraptured whenever a big actor like Montgomery Clift makes his captivating appearance.

Back to the initial auditions: Maddalena finally finds little Maria with her soiled dress by a pool--the rest of the stage mothers have already been let in to the studio and a seemingly kind director's assistant, Alberto Annovazzi, manages to get Maddalena and Maria inside the doors, despite the late hour.

We break into Act II when Maria is chosen for a call back audition. Visconti doesn't only affectionately ridicule the naïve Maddalena but Italian society in general, obsessed with their own self-interest. It begins with an older washed-up actress who shows up at Maddalena's door insisting that she has the ability to polish the little one's act and ensure she wins the film competition. Later Spartaco kicks the woman out of the house, but up until that point, Maddalena doesn't question her credentials, only hoping that the woman's instruction will give her little one, an edge.

Due to her naivety about the film business, Maddalena is often gullible with those she interacts with; but she's also stubborn and aggressive. The obsessed mother butts heads with a photographer referred to her by Annovazzi and a dress maker, who hilariously doesn't buy into taking injections for preventative health (Maddalena works a nurse and gives injections to diabetics). More funny stuff: a hairdresser allows his young son to cut Maria's pigtails and Maddalena expects instant results during initial ballet lessons (dig the crazy ballet director's absurd dance across the studio floor!). There's also a great scene where Maddalena accuses Spartaco of beating her--the gossipy neighbors get in on the act, and take Maddalena's side (in contrast to their constant criticism of her).

Visconti throws in a nice twist when Annovazzi hits Maddalena up for the 50,000 lire which was going to be used for the purchase of a new house. Annovazzi tells Maddalena he'll use the money to make the necessary connections to ensure Maria gets the screen test. The twist is that Maddalena doesn't seem to mind that he used most of the money to buy a scooter for himself. And when Annovazzi tries to seduce Maddalena during a visit at her mother-in-law's, Maddalena also isn't perturbed at all--she dismisses it as men's 'typical behavior'.

Before the classic denouement, Maddelena meets a woman who she recognizes as a former actress in a couple of director Blasetti's movies. She warns Maddelina that the move business isn't what it's cracked up to be. After acting in two films, she didn't get anywhere, so she took the more mundane job as a film editor. Still, Maddalena is undeterred and believes there's still a chance Maria might be selected. So she finagles her way up the projection room and watches the rushes. To her chagrin, Maria breaks out crying during her screen test. Blasseti's colleagues (including Annovazzi) find this uproarious and burst out laughing. Maddalena confronts the director and chastises him and his colleagues for their bad behavior. Blasseti basically agrees with Maddalena and fires Annovazzi on the spot. But that's not enough to assuage Maddalena's hurt feelings and she storms off.

At this point, Maddalena's world is shattered. Sitting on park bench, she clutches Maria and cries out, 'Help'. Back at the studio, Blasseti watches the rushes again and improbably sees a different Maria. Before you know it, the studio executives are offering Maddalena and Spartico a contract for Maria to star in their next picture. But Maddalena, no longer living in the world of illusion, does the 'right thing' and tells the executives that the film business is not for her daughter or for the rest of the family.

Most of 'Bellissima' I would describe as comic but there are moments (particularly the ending) which are more touching and poignant. On occasion, the constant bickering between some of the characters, goes on a little too long but for the most part, Visconti's narrative displays brilliant insights into the unfortunate human phenomena known as selfishness. The many layered, brilliant performance of Anna Magnani and the supporting players is the type of acting you rarely see anymore. This is a film that I highly recommend for those who enjoy watching classic cinema.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars truth - complex Jan. 26 2013
By vs - Published on
Format: DVD
This is my favorite film of Visconti, just as Mamma Roma (to my taste) is the best Pasolini's movie.

And this is not because of Magnani, even though her performance in both films is superb, as it always is.

The reason I liked Bellissima so much is that it's that exact combination of realism and art which produces the highest possible outcome of human creativity, the truth. In a sense this is what Shakespeare did, because he was a realist even in The Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream, not even mentioning his Henry IV or Merry Wives of Windsor.

Bellissima is about a short span in a life of a poor family in post-WWII Italy. The mother (Magnani), trying to survive, takes her small (5 years old) daughter to a movie audition hoping to start her career in the film industry, so that her future would be financially secure (and so would be the future of the family).

We see life of ordinary Italians, shown by Visconti with so much knowledge and compassion that it's difficult not to identify with everyone in this movie. We're seeing lots of life's minor details, adding up to a sharp, crisp picture, much bigger than simple sum of those details.

Magnani plays her favorite persona, hysterical - and loving, strong-willed - and vulnerable.

Visconti's cinematography is superb, each scene is so believable because of his ability to add small details everywhere, making it absolutely real. Film is not dated even though it's 50 years old. Some movies become dated after just a few years, but not those in the class of Bellissima, Mamma Roma, People on Sunday.