Visconti deftly blends showbiz satire with heart-tugging pathos in this neorealist melodrama. 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 Anna Magnani’s working-class Roman nurse and her rather indifferent daughter, whom she’s driven to make a star. As in similar Hollywood-plays-itself melodramas such as Sunset Boulevard and The Bad and the Beautiful, Bellissima both romanticizes the power of celluloid dreams and delivers a cuttingly cynical takedown of the industry. Magnani’s affecting performance as a mother whose desperation for success is outweighed only by her love for her child helps the film achieve true poignancy. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
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