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‘The face of female Rome’ featured in new Wex film series

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A still from “L’Amore,” a 1948 Italian film starring Anna Magnani that is set to screen at the Wexner Center for the arts on Jan. 12. Credit: Courtesy of Luce Cinecitta

Rome isn’t so far away anymore for Ohio State students.

During the month of January, the Wexner Center for the Arts will show nine of Italian actress Anna Magnani’s films from the 1940s and ‘50s, beginning with “Rome, Open City” and “L’Amore” on Thursday night.

The opening film, “Rome, Open City,” will be shown digitally remastered with the eight subsequent films shown on newly-printed 35mm film. Dana Renga, an Italian and film studies associate professor, said she shows the film to her undergraduate classes every year.

“It is supposedly a neo-realist film all about World War II and the partisan resistance and fighting against Nazis and such, but I find it to be a total melodrama love story,” Renga said. “I like it because it teaches you a lot about history, but it’s pure melodrama and passion.”

Renga described Magnani as the face and voice of female Rome. She said her role in “Rome, Open City” is a serious one, but if students see other films in the series, it shows how versatile Magnani is playing an array of characters.

“She’s just one of the great actresses in film history,” said David Filipi, director of Film/Video at the Wex. “It’s kind of hard to think of an American comparison to her. She’s such a revered figure in Italian history, she wasn’t really thought of as just a glamorous actress … She is really a force of nature on screen.”

Filipi’s personal favorite of the series is “Belissima,” showing Jan. 19, but he said “…and the Wild Women,” showing on Jan. 26, is also worth noting. It features two popular actresses of the time, Magnani and Giulietta Masina, and a message that he said is different from a typical prison movie.

“It’s really interesting if you look at prison films as a genre,” Filipi said. “It does go beyond the conventions of the genre and makes a statement about class.

“Rome, Open City” is set to begin at 7 p.m. and “L’Amore” at 9 p.m. in the Wex film/video theater. The series is in collaboration with Italian film archive Luce Cinecittá, an organization that promotes contemporary and classic Italian cinema internationally. Admission is $6 for students and $8 for the general public.

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