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NIGHTS OF CABIRIA
1957 - Federico Fellini
Italy / France
61
Opening Shot

Nights of Cabiria opens to a long shot of a couple walking along a deserted street. The camera pans with them and the shot holds as the walk down toward a river just off the road. They are a seemingly happy young couple and the girl is particularly giddy as she playfully laughs and hugs him. He asks her to go stand by the river and she immediately runs swinging her purse in the air. He walks next to her and the camera cuts to him in a closeup we see him suspiciously look around. When the camera cuts back to the long shot the man pushes her into the river while taking her purse and running off. She is left screaming in the river for help...

The Film

Federico Fellini's 1957 masterpiece Nights of Cabiria is a simple yet deeply effective film about the depression of living, and the redemption of the human soul. It becomes painful to watch Cabiria, a charming and naive prostitute who's searching for love, have men use and then leave her. Through the incredible performance of Giulietta Masina (who very much recalls Chaplin's "Tramp" of the silent era) we see Cabiria as an independent women who's very positive and trusting of others. She presents herself as though she's in control, yet is always a victim of situation. With Fellini's fascinating visual and musical imagination, Nights of Cabiria comes alive with an observation (typical of Neorealism) that we are good but can be put into desperate situation. Fellini is a filmmaker who is rooted in Neorealism, but his preference lies in extravagance and melodrama. This combination is evident as ever in this film, which finds a pitch-perfect blend of almost seamless shifting between comedy and heartbreak. Nights of Cabiria's greatness lies in its seamless simplicity, but also in its incredible sense of spirituality and longing to endure or accept suffering. This is heightened through Fellini's vision, but also through the absorbing musical score from the great Nino Rota, as well as the performance from Masina. Masina was Fellini's wife and she is given a star-driven focus of the film, expressively delivering with just the right mix of emotional pain, innocence, and comedy. Fellini is well known for his classic endings, but I don't know if any of them is more perfect then the magical conclusion to this film, which brings me to tears. Nights of Cabiria is really a touching, often humorous film of sadness and hope, and to me it is quite possibly Fellini's best film.

The Filmmaker

Very often considered among the most well known and respected filmmakers in the world, Federico Fellini is an iconic figure in the history of filmmaking. Italian cinema is well regarded for it's Neo-Realist filmmakers (Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica) and while Fellini's roots trace back to Neo-Realism, he is ultimately a romantic whose films are marked with surrealism. Fellini began as a co-writer alongside Rossellini on films like Open City, which is a landmark achievement of the Neo-Realist movement. However with his own films, Fellini would veer away from this style. He would use history and his own personal life experiences but very often they would be dreams. Fellini is a visionary in every way who with every frame of his work captures a personal expression of his vision. As a filmmaker, he is mostly self-taught and this may explain his personal signature throughout his work. Fellini began with early careers in the circus and as a cartoonist and this is very evident in his films, which have an incredibly playful and extravagant approach. Characters of his films are always searching for meaning, or love or happiness and Fellini usually examinations relationships of separated romances, as well as parents and children. Fellini's filmmaking can in many ways be divided into two with the turning point being his 1960 film La Dolce Vita, which earned international acclaim and success. While his pre-La Dolce Vita films still had all the Fellini-esque elements and were not necessarily Neo-Realist films they did become much more bizarre, surreal, and fast-paced beginning with the release of his acclaimed 1960 film. After La Dolce Vita, Fellini would go on to make his most personal masterpiece (another semi-autobiography which just about every Fellini film was): 1963's 8 ½. It stands among the very great achievements in visionary filmmaking and personal expression. Like much of his post-La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2 may divide audiences. However, his earlier films (most notably the masterpieces Nights of Cabiria and La Strada- both of which star his charming wife Giulietta Masina- who has a Chaplin-like performance ability) capture the qualities of the 'Felliniesque' picture while remaining incredibly accessible and memorable for all audiences. Fellini is one of the most interesting figures in the history of cinema and even if all his films don't work, those that do are truly memorable.

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