Monday, March 28, 2011

Nights of Cabiria (1957)

Nights of Cabiria
Paramount, 1957

Producer:  Dino De Laurentiis
Director:  Federico Fellini
Cast:  Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Amedeo Nazzari
Writers:  Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini
Cinematography:  Aldo Tonti, 
Otello Martelli

Editing: Leo Cattozzo
Music:  Bonagura, Nino Rota

Country:  Italy
Running time: 117 minutes
Color:  Black and White
Aspect Ratio:  1.33 : 1
Language:  Italian


The misadventures of an Italian prostitute as she roams the streets looking for love, but 
frequently encounters heartbreak.  She finally meets an upstanding young gentleman and falls
for him... is he the one that will save her from this life? Or will she be humiliated yet again?

Awards, Honors, Reception

Academy Awards
Winner:  Best Foreign Language Film - Italy

BAFTA Awards
Nominated:  Best Film from any Source 
Nominated:  Best Foreign Actress - Giulietta Masina 

Cannes Film Festival
Winner:  Best Actress - Giulietta Masina 
Winner:  OCIC Award - Special Mention - Federico Fellini 
Nominated:  Palme d'Or - Federico Fellini 

Madonna, Madonna, help me to change my life. Bestow your grace on me too. Make me change my life.


Italian post-war neo-realism is about many things, but mostly it's about human pathos.  "Nights of Cabiria" isn't so much concerned with the plot and the series of events that happen to Cabiria, but rather on what impact this has on her psyche. 

This film doesn't try to hide what Cabiria is.  She IS a prostitute.  She isn't the cliched "prostitute with a heart of gold."  But she is a prostitute with a heart, and is often breaking... despite her outward efforts to try and mask it.  Giulietta Masina, who stars in the title role and was also Fellini's wife, gives a beautiful performance.

You can not talk about this film without mentioning post-war Rome, which in and of itself is a character as well. One scene in the film depicts a good samaritan bringing food, clothes and supplies to many citizens left homeless from the ravages of war, all the while Cabiria tries to seduce the clearly un-interested man in a "date." While one man tries to help others, Cabiria is doing all she can to make her own way in this world. This is what Italian Neo Realism is all about.

But Cabiria is not without a sense of shame or pity. This is evident in one of the final scenes when she sells her humble house to a needy family in one of the more touching scenes in the film.  And that's the point. Cabiria, despite her profession is still a woman of high moral character. Disappointment after disappointment continue to rain down on her and she refuses to give up, she refuses to feel sorry for herself. At the end of the film, after a completely heartbreaking episode, she keeps her head held high and marches forward in a beautifully shot final scene by Fellini.

As mentioned before, Post-War Italian Neo Realism is about human pathos, and this film consistently delivers it from beginning to end.  

A beautiful film and a must-see for anyone interested in classic foreign cinema.

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