Some artists have this tendency to experience all. They want to dare beyond normality, beyond the ordinary. The use of any kind of drug as mental trip (or, in a deeper sense, as consciousness expansion) has been a research path many philosophers, artists, writers etc. have tried, from Baudelaire to Sartre to many others, from various past theories and experiences – lived for example by American 68 counter-cultural figures such as Timothy Leary, Carlos Castaneda, Ken Kesey – until today.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man
Play a song for me …
Take me on a trip upon
Your magic swirlin’ ship,
My senses have been stripped…
Bob Dylan was probably referring here to his experiences with LSD.
Many years ago an American experimental theatre actress (of Italian origin) lived in a small apartment here in Trastevere (from Latin Trans Tiberim = beyond the Tiber river). This was at a time when this rione had just started to be trendy (enjoy some Trastevere pictures).
In any case one night, on a tiny terrace overlooking Rome’s romantic roofs, while together with some friends we were eating a delicious Tuscan caciotta and were placidly sipping some good red wine, she suddenly got inspired and said that, if Shakespeare was so good at describing all the hues of the human soul, positive as well as negative, it was because he actually had lived them all, it couldn’t but be like that – she said – since what he wrote was actually so incredibly vivid and real– from the most dreadful horrors up to the joy and sublime love between youths.
An artist therefore in order to access some bits of greatness had to behave in much the same way and experience life at a highest and even extreme degree.
She undeniably tried to follow this principle and while her life was gradually falling apart her acting on stage was amazingly gaining intensity and strength, as if actually there were this sort of relationship between the experiencing-all type of lifestyle on one hand (extreme sorrow, pure joy and less pure transgression,) and a greater intensity and power in acting on the other hand.
(If you want to know more about those days, read this post)
The intense beautiful eyes of this American woman, whose family originated in Campania, expressed all these things. They were the complex, ancient eyes of an Anna Magnani from Chicago.
Enjoy these Anna Magnani’s intense eyes, showing all the vigour and dignity a contemporary Roman woman can have. I will show you better pictures when I can. The American actress too had definitely a deepness of her own. She later moved on from that intemperate phase of her life and she now lives a happy and fruitful life back in her Chicago.
Let us digress and enjoy Anna verrà, a beautiful song sung and composed in honour of Anna Magnani by the Italian pop-blues musician Pino Daniele, from Naples, a city we will talk about soon since it is the Greek cousin of Rome: Naples, or Napoli, comes from Greek Νέα Πόλις, i. e. new town.
col suo modo di guardarci
noi che ci emozioniamo
ancora davanti al mare.
e sarà un giorno
pieno di sole …
col suo modo di rubarci
|Anna will come,
with her way
of looking deep
into our eyes …
We still so excited
by the sea …
Anna will come
in a day
the sun will fully shine …
Anna will come
with her way of seizing deep
into our souls…
Permanences. Rome has a special relationship with that Campania area. There was located Cumae, which founded Naples and which was the first Greek colony in the Italian mainland. In those Hellenic areas, lush with climate and fertility, and where later great Roman men like Cicero had their villas, Rome encountered the Greeks for the very first time, a fact that will greatly influence succeeding history. Talking of permanences, this relationship between the two cities is still alive today, based on empathy, common roots and a comprehension of two identities which are diverse though eternally attracting each other.
This song by Pino Daniele (from the album Mascalzone latino, if I’m not wrong) we love to imagine as a direct tribute from Νέα Πόλις to Rome. And Rome – we also love to imagine – honoured returns.
More on MoR’s bohemian days in Trastevere spent with incredibly odd US expatriates:
Oranges in California
As for Anna Magnani and our mix of ancient and modern:
Italian Songs. Anna Magnani, Dean Martin, Pavarotti and the Three Tenors
Pre-Christian Rome lives
On Roman, Italian and Latin Roots. Italy and the New World