Italian films of the ’50s and ’60s are recalled in “Rosa Funzeca,” the story of a whore with a heart of gold (“Nights of Cabiria”) and her relationship with her son (“Mamma Roma”). Strikingly beautiful B&W camerawork adds to the time warp feeling, but, despite an engagingly bravura performance from Ida di Benedetto in the lead, there isn’t a great deal of substance for contemporary audiences.
Rosa (Di Benedetto) has walked the streets of Naples for years; she’s tops at her job. But she quits to give a home to truculent teenage son, Fernando (Primo Reggiani.) She’s saved to buy an apartment and a flower stall at a market, but business is bad. To add to her woes, Fernando, who is supposed to be working by day and attending evening school, turns out to be a bad boy, preferring to hang out with his disreputable buddies. Before long, Rosa is forced back to her former profession, with a tragic conclusion in the offing. Italian film buffs may get a charge out of this decidedly retro piece of work, but the film lacks the strengths of its more notable predecessors.