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aka - Road, The
Italy 1954
Directed by
Federico Fellini
107 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars

Strada, La

Zampano (Anthony Quinn) tours the Italian countryside living in a ramshackle caravan pulled by a motorcycle and earns a meagre living as a busking strongman.  He needs an assistant for his act and from a poor widow purchases her slow-witted daughter Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) to whom he opens up a world of which she has hitherto known nothing.

There are better-known Fellini films, principally, La Dolce Vita and but none achieve the simple, grace of La Strada with its classic performance by Fellini's wife, Guilietta Masina, as the naïf, Gelsomina. Masina would act in other Fellini films such as Nights of Cabiria and Juliet of the Spirits but this is the role for which she will always be remembered. Not far off however is Anthony Quinn's performance as the brute who abuses the devotion of his wide-eyed assistant with tragic consequences for all. Winner of an Oscar for Best Foreign film it is slightly sentimental but irresistably so.

With its echoes of the post-war Italian neo-realism movement of which Fellini had been a part as a screenwriter and which is more evident in his previous film I Vitelloni the film features many of the characteristics of Fellini's future mature work, not least of which is the melancholy sense of the transience of human life and its follies in the face of eternity (represented here, as is so often the case, by the sea). There are more specific motifs - the circus, the carnival, empty fields and a figure suspended between earth and sky - all of which Fellini would rework felicitously throughout his career. And, of course, there is the distinctive music provided by Nino Rota, Fellini's long-time collaborator.

Fellini is one of the great directors of cinema history and La Strada is one of his best.




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