Angelina, the heroine of Luigi Zampa’s film, L’Honorable Angelina (The Honorable Angelina) from 1946, is a common woman, married to a policeman, mother of five children. This large family lives in an abandoned neighborhood of everything on the outskirts of Rome, Pietralta. The inhabitants are poor and hungry, they live in shacks and when the local grocer refuses to give ” Pasta »To women in exchange for their ration tickets (we are at the end of the war), a revolt breaks out. Angry Angelina fights the grocer and she wins. The group of women rebel and ransack the store and its reserve. They discover after police intervention that the grocer was depriving the population of food to resell it on the black market. Angelina, strong-headed, endowed with a practical intelligence and a sense of sharing out of the ordinary, is chosen by her neighbors to represent them before the administrations, she is their voice.
Deprived of water, electricity and transport, the people of Pietralta, when the weather (floods) add to their misfortunes, decide to illegally occupy neighboring apartments under construction. Angelina has to fight even harder. She is so successful that the press is talking about her and some are predicting a career as an MP. In Italian, “Onorevole” is the title given to deputies, like “Cavaliere” or “Commandatore”, so the film is entitled Onorevole Angelina in reference to its future mission.
A role in perfect harmony with the personality of the world-famous actress Anna Magnani.
But who is Anna Magnani?
One of the most famous actresses of Italy, a fiery temperament, a natural beauty of unparalleled expressiveness, a figure of Romanity, a diva, a myth. Born in 1908, she represents another era, but she remains a star of unrivaled play. She divides her career between cinema and theater with infallible energy. Often she embodies the characters of mothers facing extreme situations. In Rome open city (Roma città aperta) by Roberto Rossellini, she is Pina, a strong, desperate woman, screaming her pain in one of the most striking scenes of Italian cinema. She rose to fame with this role then moved on to that of elated mother in Extremely beautiful by Luchino Visconti. That of a loving wife in The tattooed rose (The rose tattoo) by Daniel Mann won him an Oscar. It is the consecration and a Hollywood career, she turns with Cukor, Lumet… then returns in front of the Italian cameras to interpret a mother still in Mom Rome by Pasolini and finally, herself, a last tribute from Fellini to Nannarella the Roman par excellence, The Magnani, in Fellini Roma.
Anna Magnani is able to play all roles, L’Honorable Angelina (L’onorevole Angelina) allows him to give free rein to his talent, dramatic and comic at the same time, because it is a dramatic film but not without humor and irony. On the border between neo-realism and Italian comedy, L’Honorable Angelina is directed by Luigi Zampa. Excellent technician (magnificent opening sequence shot of the film) and keen observer of the Italian people, he gives free rein to his taste for satire. Biting, early feminist, he stages moments of grinding humor like the despair of husbands when their lunch is not ready, their wives are too busy discussing politics and trying to save the world.
Unfortunately, it is too early and the questioning of the position of women in the society of the time will stop along the way, but Luigi Zampa deserves credit for having launched the debate.
Huge success on its release in Italy, the film reached fourth place at the box office among the Italian films of the 1947-48 season and La Magnani obtained the Coppa Volpi (Venice Festival) for best actress and a Nastro d’Argento ( equivalent of Caesars). Today it is a historical document on the living conditions immediately after the war. The district of Pietralta would not be renovated until the 1980s and it really lived through the floods, squalid real estate developers and poverty.