Thursday, October 27, 2005

NIGHTS OF CABIRIA (1957) - Federico Fellini

I’ll cop to it -- I’m not a big fan of Fellini. Yes, I can see why people consider him one of the masters of cinema. And, yes, I admit he has the “language of film” down to a tee. But for me, he never really translated. I saw 8 ½ and La Dolce Vita in film school and, while I appreciated his technique, I could never really get behind the subject matter -- whiny artistes and rich debutantes. Well, I guess it took a prostitute to finally bring me around.

Nights of Cabiria is a classic character study of a working girl in Rome, Cabiria, played to the hilt by Giulietta Masina. It’s alternately comic and sad (my favorite mix) and, unlike so many other prostitute movies (Pretty Woman, etc.), feels authentic in capturing the highs and the lows of life on the street. Sure, it’s not the gritty realism of Pimps Up, Ho’s Down, but the emotions are all dead on.
Just when you think something “magical” is about to happen to Cabiria, she either gets her purse stolen, pushed into a river, or hastily asked to hide in the bathroom while her high-class john makes up with his jilted fiancée, thus forced to watch real romance unfold through cracked doorjambs.
Fellini is at the top of his game here, but for me this was all Masina’s show. She is the very definition of “plucky,” maybe with a side order of “scrappy.” You root for her every step of the way, even though you know it can’t end but so happily for her. She’s hardened but not “hard” and still a little soft in the middle, even if it’s to her own detriment. She’s one-hundred percent “human,” a quality you don’t find too often in whores or Fellini films. Or, at least, what little I know of both.

1 comment:

Jordan Hoffman said...

Another great early Fellini film with Masina is La Strada. Very similar -- Masina is going for a Chaplin thing in these films. If Chaplin was an Italian whore.