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I would not argue that there could be better films made before and
after Cabiria. Perhaps. But there never will be another "Nights of
Cabiria" - the last Fellini's film with the linear structure, his third
and the most successful collaboration with his actress wife, Giulietta
Masina, his immortal love letter to her. Of all his characters, Fellini
once said, Cabiria was the only one he was still worried about. Of all
the characters, I've seen in the films, Cabiria is the one I often
think about - what ever happened to her? Did she survive? Was she able
to find love?
I've never seen the face so alive, changing its expression every moment. If the face is the soul's mirror, Cabiria's (Masina's) face reflects her every single emotion and how effortlessly she goes from bitter cynicism to wistful yearning, from despair to hope, from tears to smile. While there's life there's hope. As long as Cabiria smiles in the end of this tragicomic masterpiece, there is hope for all of us.
Federico Fellini, the genius of the Italian cinema left his imprint in
all the films he directed for all of us to enjoy forever. "Le Notti di
Cabiria" stands as one of his best because of the character of that
invincible woman at the center of the story: Cabiria! Having recently
seen the excellent copy that was shown at NY's Film Forum, this is a
film that like good wine gets better with age.
Fellini was the man whose idea was translated for the screen with his usual collaborators, Tulio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano. Pier Paolo Passolini contributed to some of the dialog. Essentialy, this is a timeless tale of a woman that despite adversity, bad times, and all that is wrong around her, keeps her chin up and never begrudges a thing. In fact, Cabiria, despite of her profession, is a woman with a highly moral character.
The film takes us back to another, more innocent era. We are shown a prostitute with a heart of gold who is always cheated by most of the men who comes in contact with her. Cabiria is never resentful, or bitter at the hand life throws her way.
One of the best realized sequences of the film involves Cabiria being picked up by a handsome and popular actor, Alberto Lazzari. Alberto is about the only one in the movie that treats Cabiria with any semblance of warmth. Unfortunately, nothing happens between them because Alberto's lover, the gorgeous Jessy, arrives at Alberto's apartment to claim what's hers, leaving Cabiria shut up in a bathroom. If only her friends could see her then! Nobody would believe it!
There is not a moment out of place in the film. Of course, Fellini had the incomparable Giulietta Masina playing the leading role. Ms. Masina is just too wonderful for words. She makes us believe she is Cabiria, and that's that, which in itself it's something other actresses try harder, without the same results. Ms. Masina's face reveals all that is going on within Cabiria. Together with all her other creations in other Fellini's films, this is perhaps her own triumph as an actress.
Franca Marzi, who plays Cabiria's best friend, is also excellent. Amadeo Nazzari is perfect portraying the matinée idol, Alberto Lazzari. This was one of his best appearances in a distinguished career in the Italian cinema. The rest of the cast is wonderful.
Fellini's masterpiece is a film that satisfies any time one sees it thanks to his vision and the presence of Giulietta Masina.
It's hard to tell which Fellini's film leads the way; "8 1/2", "La Dolce
vita", "La strada", "Amarcord" and so many more, you just can't choose.
But, when it comes to this beautiful picture, things become clearer. It's not just the amazing perfomance by Giullietta Masina, it's not just the wonderful, semi-crazy characters wondering around the screen and emphasizing Kabiria's sad and lonely world, it's -and that's the film's greatest quality- this sense of optimism that Fellini wants the viewer to take with him/her as he/she is leaving the theater. The master takes everything from his heroin but at the end he wants to convey one simple, eassy-to-grip but so essential message: "Please, don't give up". The power of the film's last ten minutes is unpreceded in the world of movies and, sad to say, never again have we seen such an amazing finale. This is a must-see film, and, most important of all, a film so generous to its viewers that one time is not enough. A total 9/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What do I love most about Federico Fellini's wondrous THE NIGHTS OF
I love the opening scenes when Cabiria (Giulietta Masina) is robbed and dumped in the Tiber River, and the bikinied Roman boys jump in to save her, but she is annoyed that they have saved her life because she wants to know what happened to Giorgio, who she thinks ran away because "he was scared." He's the one who had robbed and nearly drowned her.
I love the many nocturnal scenes around the Passeggiata Archeologica in Rome where the gargoylish prostitutes, like angelic gargoyle Cabiria herself, are selected by their customers approaching in cars, and the wild and saucy humor that accompanies those scenes, particularly when they deal with one elephantine hooker named "Bomba Atomica."
I love the scene at the religious shrine of Divina Amore, where everyone comes to vociferate their desired favors, and Cabiria pleads to be released from her life as a streetwalker, and the old lame man falls at the foot of the altar, unhealed. The intensity of the build-up, the virtuosic camera work, the faces of the pious, are all breathtaking.
I love the famed scene in the sleazy theatre where Cabiria, at the hands of an unscrupulous hypnotist, relives a tender and poignant scene from her youth in front of a crowd of louts.
I love the scenes in and around Cabiria's Ostia Road hovel, and the little boys who climb giant Jungle Jims and call out her name, and she waves back.
I love Cabiria's friend Wanda (Franca Marzi), whom she loves dearly. She is a million times less vulnerable that our heroine and takes Cabiria's rants with gracious generosity.
I love the scene of that night Cabiria spends in the luxurious villa of a movie star (Amedeo Nazzari.) She is totally out of her element, doesn't recognize lobster, cuddles a cute puppy as fragile as she is, butts her head against unseen doors.
I love the deity-kissed music of Nino Rota, lilting us, as it captures the soul of Fellini's lovely wife, Giulietta/Cabiria.
And I love the overwhelming and moving finale, when Cabiria is robbed by water once more, this time by a cruel scammer feigning love and for whom Cabiria was ready to start life anew. She rises from her anguish, and as she follows the road revelers, turns and smiles to us, to ME! the most eloquent smile in Italian artistic creation since La Gioconda.
Smile at us, Cabiria, or are you Giulietta Masina smiling now? Or both of you at once? We truly need that smile.
I am not much in favor of "best" lists--I wouldn't make
in Cusack's "High Fidelity" world--but I can usually offer
a range of titles of films that I consider the most powerful
experiences I have had in front of a screen--Bicycle Thief,
Ran, Ordet, Seventh Seal, Citizen Kane, L'Avventura,
Rear Window, Blade Runner, quite a few others. But if
had to pick just one title, it would be Nights of Cabiria.
I saw it when it first came out in this country--I was
a junior in high school and fortunate enough to live near
a theater that showed foreign films. It ran for several
weeks and I kept going back to see it over and over, giving
myself permission by dragging friends to see it. No one
ever disappointed, though only a couple of friends developed
a comparable enthusiasm with mine. I have continued to see
it every chance I get, though I have not had the opportunity to see the latest reissue--I probably will have to see it on
video or dvd, since the city I now live in rarely shows any foreign films. Giulietta Massina gives not just the greatest
performance of her career, but surely one of the greatest
performances ever recorded on film, and the sequence of Cabiria's experiences, at first seemingly random and insignificant, adds up to one of the most profound statements Fellini ever made about human life.
This is one of the most perfect films ever committed to celluloid. It involved me more than at least 99% of other films I've seen, and the main character, Cabiria, is a character to cherish and love forever (of course, we who have seen La Strada are already partly familiar with the character). I've hardly ever cared more about a character, and even after only five minutes into the film, I wanted so desperately to protect her. Giulietta Masina is so masterful in her performance, and Federico Fellini, her husband, is as masterful in his direction. I did not believe that they could match their success with La Strada, but, in fact, they succeeded in surpassing it. Bravo. 10/10. One of the best films ever made, plain and simple.
A prostitute whose life is a veritable study in the resilience of the human spirit is the subject of `Nights of Cabiria,' directed by Federico Fellini. Giulietta Masina stars as Cabiria, a gentle soul at heart who manages to maintain a positive outlook even in the face of adversity. Experiences that would leave those of lesser mettle jaded she is seemingly able to ward off and emerge from intact, with a guarded optimism that nevertheless leaves her open to whatever ills life may have in store for her next. But it is just that optimism and her sense of joy in the simple things that makes her so endearing. She is proud, for example, of the fact that she owns her own house, hovel though it may be. Though not one to be easily duped, she is vulnerable to sincere persistence, which has in the past rendered her victim to those who would take advantage of her, which is succinctly established in the opening scene of the film. Fellini's film is a study of how good may succumb to evil, and yet still triumph in the end (though open to subjective interpretation). It's something of an examination of endurance; how many times can one be knocked down before finally being unable to stand back up again. At the same time, however, it's an example of how purity can prevail against even the utmost cruelty. There is a humanity manifested in Cabiria that somehow gives absolution, not only to her lifestyle, but to those who would willingly do her harm. And it is in that very same absolution that we find a message of hope and redemption. As Cabiria, the diminutive Masina gives a performance that is nothing less than superlative, filled with nuance and expression. She has a face and a manner that convey an unbelievable depth of emotion, and Fellini captures every bit of it with his camera to perfection. It sometimes seems that she is a sprite merely masquerading as a woman; she has a light, almost ethereal presence, though at the same time she exhibits an earthy quality that gives her character such complexity, which removes any semblance of stereotype one may assign to her character as a `lady of the evening.' It is a heartfelt, memorable portrayal that quite simply should have earned her an Oscar for Best Actress. Turning in a noteworthy performance, also, is Francois Perier, as Oscar D'Onofrio, the stranger who comes into Cabiria's life with an offer that ultimately seems too good to be true. The supporting cast includes Amedeo Nazzari (Alberto Lazzari), Aldo Silvani (The Hypnotist), Franca Marzi (Wanda), Dorian Gray (Jessy), Mario Passante (Cripple in the `Miracle' sequence), Pina Gualandri (Matilda), Leo Cattozzo (Man with the sack) and Polidor (The Monk). `Nights of Cabiria' is a film of extraordinary depth that is beautiful as well in it's humanity; Fellini has created images, both visually and emotionally, that are stunning and indelibly realized. Highlighted by the performance of Giulietta Masina, this is a film that begs to be embraced, one that will stay with you long after the last shadow has passed from the screen into darkness. In Cabiria, Fellini somehow touches something eternal, for there is a lasting sense of innate goodness about her that simply cannot be forgotten. For seekers after wisdom and truth, this is definitely a film that must not be missed. I rate this one 10/10.
As a film-lover, there are movies that I've outgrown, movies that disappointingly lose their connection to me as I age and mature. Fellini's "Le Notti di Cabiria" is one of those movies that seems to grow with me. It grows richer with each yearly viewing. I never tire of it; I am moved in different ways each time I see it. Fellini and his amazing muse, Giulietta Masina, created one of those rare movie masterpieces in 1957 that comments on its time, yet remains fresh and contemporary as well. But I lament that this gem is so little known today. I trust its recent restoration will help remedy the movie-going public's oversight. The film's rich concluding scene alone (and Masina's glance into our eyes) remains one of the most magical moments ever projected on a screen.
I almost turned this film off. I'm so glad I stayed with it. It's one of the
best films I've seen.
Cabiria, the street prostitute, is not sympathetic. She's rough, vulgar, not
very attractive, a showoff, loud, proud, inelegant. I just didn't feel
anything for her character at the beginning. But Fellini must have been
reading my mind. He purposefully played it that way to draw the viewer in.
The streets of Rome are unforgiving and harsh for a prostitute. There are those who sleep in caves and in the archways. Cabiria braggingly says, "I've got my own house...here's one girl who's never slept under the arches. Well, maybe once. Twice maybe." By the end of the film I was completely hooked by her charm, desire, and hope. For hope is what keeps Cabiria going. A great film.
Gorgeous early Fellini, often considered the mid-point in his career,
between the more obviously reflective, supposedly realistic early work,
the bleak extravaganzas that followed. But Fellini was never a
in the dull way Rossellini was: his use of landscape was always heavily
symbolic or subjective. Here Cabiria lives in the middle of a bleak
wasteland, which perhaps serves to figure the emptiness of her life, the
sterility of life for women in macho Italy, or a comment on post-fascist
It doesn't really matter. The sentiments of the film are actually quite trite - women are treated badly in Italy, etc. What's riveting and astonishing is not the experiences of Everywoman, but the experiences of one particular woman. Although there is a great variety of locales, and Cabiria seems to be always moving forward, the film is actually a melodrama. Cabiria never escapes, whatever her adventures, wherever she goes, she always ends up where she started, at home. Even when she finally sells her home for a supposed new life, her last (in the film; we just know the circle will never be broken) mirrors her first in a depressing circularity.
Yet the film, for all its melancholy, is anything but depressing. Fellini is most famous for being an indulger of frail male egos, but CABIRIA's strength lies in its imaginative sympathy with its heroine. The film's structure mirrors her situation - the film has no plot as such, just an accumulative series of self-contained episodes which follow the same pattern: escape, hope, betrayal. In each episode, the further Cabiria moves away form her 'neo-realist' base, the more dream-like (verging on the fantastic) the film becomes, as if she is stepping into an enchanted world (this is made literal when she follows the actor into the nightclub, like some mythic warrior entering the dragon's lair). And each time she gives into the dream world, the illusion is rudely shattered - the scene at the hypnotist's is as heartbreaking as anything in CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT. So while the reality/illusion dichotomy is facile as an idea, it is extraordinarily powerful as cinema experienced through character.
Fellini's filming is as beautiful as anything in 50s cinema, that decade mirabilis: more restrained and grounded than later, with less obvious flourish, but the mixture of realism and dream is made all the more convincing with the gentle, coaxing camera movements, beguiling us as well as the heroine, but with the strange editing, and sometimes disruptive composition giving us a distance she can never have.
Giuletta Masina gives the most sublime performance by an actress in Italian cinema- an exuberant mixture of hope and resignation; her gorgeous big eyes not quite ready to give up yet, even at the end, although the submitting to the youthful racket seems as hopelessly bleak as 8 1/2. Her seemingly unprepossessing body is actually an instrument of unparalelled grace, and the comparisons with Chaplin are not unwarranted - when you see this performance you'll realise how unexpressive most actors' bodies are.
The Chaplin model is not always helpful - there is a mawkishness and emotional manipulation towards the climax that almost grates, but by then you so adore Cabiria, and so hate everybody else that thought doesn't really come into it (although doesn't it seem that many male viewers seem to prefer her as helpless). Throw in a lovely, playful Nino Rota score and you're in movie heaven.
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