Roberto Rossellini’s twin tribute to Magnani offers a one-two punch of tour-de-force performances from the actress. In the first part, adapted from a theatrical monologue by Jean Cocteau, she’s a woman hanging on the telephone line for dear life as she pleads with a lover who has just ended their relationship—a veritable aria of desperation and despair. In the second, a story by Federico Fellini, she stars as a peasant who has a vision of Saint Joseph—and then finds herself mysteriously pregnant. When it was released in New York, the latter was condemned as “sacrilegious,” leading to a landmark censorship battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Far from blasphemous, it’s a luminous statement of faith and spirituality, featuring one of Magnani’s most moving performances. 35mm print from Istituto Luce Cinecittà.
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