#96 - Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini)

The Vital Growth

Even though all of Fellini's films that I've seen so far carry very similar subtextual values they seem to stylistically fall in to two camps. There’s the more stylistically exuberant approach like in “Amarcord” and “8½” and the more restrained and realism oriented style from his earlier films, like this film and “La Strada” (“La Dolce Vita” seems to fall somewhere in between these two camps). However all these films have roots in the Italian neo-realist movement, and upon closer inspection it is obvious the further Fellini’s career went along he diverged more and more from the limitations of this style.
And although I love every movie of his that I’ve seen so far, I find that restrictions of this kind on the imagination of any artist are somewhat ridiculous, unless they're self imposed. So in my eyes it is quite thrilling to see a director’s growth in the abilities of his artistic expression, and the five films of Fellini portray real stylistic growth and maturing. This is why I was so critical of Wes Anderson’s work in “Moonrise Kingdom” and more recently (and to a much more limited extent) of Inarritu as well in my “Biutiful” write-up. They simply seem to be in a rut with their films when compared to this - although Inarritu has made a clear step away from his prior films with “Biutiful”. However this is a somewhat unfair comparison because I am comparing them with a master director whose career spanned decades and they’re still very much in the middle of it.

But even in Fellini’s more stylistically similar films (and films that he made in close proximity) like “La Strada” and “Nights of Cabiria” there is obvious stylistic growth. Because when one compares “Nights of Cabria” to “La Strada” from a stylistic perspective it is clear that Fellini makes his first real steps towards that stylistic transition away from Italian neo-realism. It is still very much a film that is heavily influenced by the neo-realist sensibilities but the episodic narrative format of “La Dolce Vita” is already present here, although the episodes are much more tied together. But the most obvious divergence from any stylistic limitations is of course the unforgettable final shot of this film, which he reused in “La Dolce Vita” but in a completely different context and for a different impact.
However “Nights of Cabiria” is not just a vital film in the grand framework of Fellini’s oeuvre, it’s a film that more than ably stands on its own terms. It follows Cabiria, a lively prostitute on the streets Rome, through a series of episodes that lead to a masterfully built up and subtly telegraphed climax. It’s a climax that is crushing in the most somber neo-realist way but also, characteristically for Fellini, absolutely life-affirming.

Like “La Strada” this film also features another bravura performance by Giulietta Masina in the title role of Cabiria. Her performance is again a balancing act between the dramatic and the comedic, but the humor of her role in “Nights of Cabiria” is much more farcical and dialogue driven. Her energy is the lifeblood of this film and she’s an absolute joy to watch, which makes the hardships she goes through so much more involving.
Anyway, I don’t know what else to write for now but fellatio my way out of this write-up. So “Night of Cabiria” is another amazing film by Fellini that features an amazing central performance and a gripping story. Warmest recommendations.

Original title: Le notti di Cabiria


Giulietta Masina - Maria "Cabiria" Ceccarelli
Francois Perier - Oscar D'Onofrio
Franca Marzi - Wanda
Amedeo Nazzari - Alberto Lazzari
Dorian Gray - Jessy

Original language: Italian

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