Pasolini's second feature jumps a class from the sub-proletarian milieu of Accattone, following the efforts of a prostitute, 'Mamma Roma' (Magnani), to make a petty-bourgeois life for herself and her teenage son in suburban Rome. It combines formal audacity, unflinching candour and heart-breaking compassion to produce a work of shattering beauty. Pasolini's was a cinema of contradictions. Nobody before - or since - had tried to marry stories about the underclass with a religious cinematic style normally reserved for the adoration of saints or the mysterious workings of God. The film is composed in the form of a lament, employing classical music (the 'populist' Vivaldi), painterly compositions (shot by Tonino Delli Colli to echo works by Caravaggio among others) and processional camera movements (a track through an apartment arch that suggests anything from a triumphal return to a descent through the gates of hell), in order to counterpoint the tragic trajectory of his story. For this Marxist sympathiser, radical poet and novelist, the peasantry was the fount of pre-religious grace, inevitably to be broken on the wheel of bourgeois conformity. Whatever Pasolini's intentions, what makes the film so distinctive is the passion he brings to the screen. Magnani is the only professional actress, but her iconic, larger-than-life persona, far from unsettling the film, balances it.