A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, May 19, 2018

La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)

Giulietta Masina and Anthony Quinn in La Strada 
Zampanò: Anthony Quinn
Gelsomina: Giulietta Masina
The Fool: Richard Basehart
Giraffa: Aldo Silvani
Widow: Marcella Rovere
Nun: Livia Venturini

Director: Federico Fellini
Screenplay: Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano
Cinematography: Otello Martelli
Production design: Mario Ravasco
Film editing: Leo Catozzo
Music: Nino Rota

Sad clowns have gone out of style, so to many of us today Giulietta Masina's Gelsomina seems more than a little cloying. But when La Strada was released, she was hailed as a master of comic pathos, as if she were the unacknowledged daughter of Charles Chaplin and Lillian Gish. Similarly, Federico Fellini's film now feels like an uneasy attempt to blend neorealistic grime and misery with a kind of moral allegory: Zampanó as Body, Gelsomina as Soul, and The Fool as Mind. So when Body kills Mind, Soul pines away, leaving Body in anguish. But La Strada has retained generations of admirers who are willing to overlook the sentimentality and latter-day mythologizing. It does remain a tremendously accomplished film, made under some difficulties, including constant battles by Fellini with his formidable producers, Dino De Laurentiis and Carlo Ponti. If it sometimes feels like a throwback to the era of silent movies, it was virtually filmed as one, with its American stars, Anthony Quinn and Richard Basehart, speaking their lines in English and the rest of the cast speaking Italian, and everyone later dubbed in the studio -- which leads to that slightly disembodied quality the dialogue of many early postwar films possesses.

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