Sunday, December 12, 2010

La Strada (1954)

La Strada (in English it means 'The Road') is one of the movies which is hard to forget once you have seen it. The story is about a traveling artist, Zampano (Anthony Quinn), a big man with lungs of steel. He entertains the crowds by breaking 6 mm iron chains by expanding his chest. He buys Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) from her mother, teaches her to play a drum and a trumpet; in short: to be his assistant. He treats her harshly. They later join a circus, where Zampano is provoked by The Fool (Richard Basehart), who likes to tease him. They both are dismissed from the circus. When Zampano meets The Fool again, he accidentally kills him, and this shocks Gelsomina - because The Fool had persuaded her to stay with Zampano when she wanted to leave him. She was so shaken that she cannot work again, so Zampano abandons her. Yet years later he breaks down when he learns about her death.

I have several Fellini's works and except for 'Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio' I don't like them. For me, although they are very well made, the stories have nothing special. They are about every day life, mostly about moral degradation. The plot in La strada is much more interesting.

Giulietta Masina, who played Gelsomina, was amazing. Gelsomina is a strange character. She is like a child: she doesn't hide anything, she tells the truth, and her feelings are like an open book. She has a big smile, which makes me think that she is not right in the head. Actually I thought she might have been one of the unprofessional actresses, an unknown face, who were often used in Italian cinema after WW2. Her acting was unique. I was surprised to know that she was the director's wife. She really deserved her many awards for Best Actress.

Anthony Quinn played well, too. His face showed a hard expression: a serious brute who likes to beat women. Yet there was something in him that made Gelsomina love him. I was thinking that 'At least he is honest. He doesn't steal.' and the next second, he tried to make Gelsomina steal silver hearts for him. Zampano's love for Gelsomina is hard to read, he has troubles to communicate (and she does, too. She is like a child.). It's an unusual love story.

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