best film: Rome, Open City. Realism has always been around since the beginning of narrative cinema- some thirty years or so prior to Rossellini’s masterpiece- but the WWII Italian Neo-Realism is/was a real art movement and it’s important—and Rome, Open City is the beginning of it and first masterpiece (and still a formidable companion to The Bicycle Thieves). For Magnani, There’s really no competitor though as much as I admire Momma Roma, The Golden Coach and Fellini’s Roma.

best performance: Rome, Open City. Magnani’s performance was a punch in the face to screen acting and Hollywood in 1945. Most viewers (and critics) believe her to be a non-professional actor simply reacting to an extraordinary dramatic and real situation (Nazi invasion, war). It’s a highly influential performance- perhaps as important as what Brando and others would do a few years later in Method as a movement to realism. Magnani was realism.

stylistic innovations/traits: She’s as raw and gritty as screen acting comes. Those eyes can pierce you and perhaps no actress could claim to be tenacious. She certainly had the respect of the auteurs in her time and won an Oscar (Rose Tattoo).

directors worked with: Oddly enough, especially for a foreign-born/language actress on this list, she doesn’t work with anyone here more than once but amongst her six archiveable performances we have Fellini, Renoir, Rossellini, Pasolini, and Lumet- that’s amazing.

Top 5 Performances:

  1. Rome, Open City
  2. Mamma Roma
  3. The Golden Coach
  4. The Rose Tattoo
  5. The Fugitive Kind

Archiveable films

1945- Rome, Open City
1952- The Golden Coach
1955- The Rose Tattoo
1960- The Fugitive Kind
1962- Momma Roma
1972- Fellini’s Roma