Friday, July 13, 2007

Nights of Cabiria (1957)

*****
Italy/France

This funny-melancholy-searing tale of a low-rent Roman prostitute, coming as it did out of Fellini's grounded phase, is more indebted to the Italian neo-realist tradition than his famed plunges into surrealism. It tends to get buried under Fellini's sexier achievements, though in truth it's one of the two or three best things he ever did.
Cabiria is marked by the same goofy irrepressibility as Gelsomina, though (The Great) Giulietta Masina takes on her with a fresh ferocity that charges both her performance and her many tragedies with a hefty visceral impact. The squalid milieu that Fellini paints around her has all the vividness and resonance of those in the most urgent neo-realist works but without the self-consciousness and sentimentality. Above all things, Fellini is committed to building and fleshing out his great character (and Cabiria is unquestionably one of cinema's great characters) and exploring the kind of isolation that comes caked in layers of self-preservation and insecurity. So the surrounding detail and social context and the grace and humanism seeping out are purely a happy by-product.

dir: Federico Fellini
wr: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Pier Paolo Pasolini
ph: Aldo Tonti, Otello Martelli
ed: Leo Cattozzo
m: Nino Rota
cast: Giulietta Masina, Fran├žois Perier, Franca Marzi, Amedeo Nazzari, Dorian Gray, Aldo Silvani, Ennio Girolami, Mario Passante

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