Friday, January 27, 2012

Nights of Cabiria

Originally Written and Posted at on 6/12/09 w/ Additional Edits.

Directed by Federico Fellini with a script by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano, and Pier Paolo Pasolini based on an original story by Maria Molinari. Le notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) tells the story of a prostitute working at the seedy Ostia section of Rome who searches for love but fails as she is taken advantage and such. When she meets and fall for a man of respectability, things seem to be promising until she becomes humiliated in a series of events. Starring Fellini's wife Giulietta Masina, Francois Perier, Franca Marzi, Dorian Gray, Aldo Silvani, and Ennio Girolami. Le notti di Cabiria is a whimsical, charming, and heartbreaking masterpiece from Federico Fellini.

After being pushed into a river and having her pursed stolen where she nearly drowned, Cabiria (Giuletta Masina) is upset that her lover Giorgio (Franco Fabrizi) has left with her purse leaving her with nothing. After being saved from drowning by boys and fellow locals, she is still angry that another man has taken advantage of her where a fellow prostitute name Wanda (Franca Marzi) warns her not to get too attached. After burning Giorgio's things, Cabiria goes to work as a prostitute where along with Wanda and a friend and their pimp Amleto (Ennio Girolami). She gets into a fight with a rival while going into the city with a couple of friends to go into the rivaling section that included richer, better-looking prostitutes. Walking outside of a posh apartment, she sees a famous actor named Alberto Lazzari (Amedeo Nazarri) who was having an argument with his girlfriend Jessie (Dorian Gray). Upset and wanting to go out, he takes Cabiria to a club and later, to his home where she gets an autograph and almost ate dinner with him until Jessie returns where Cabiria was sneaked to sleep in his bathroom.

The next night, Cabiria goes on assignment again where waiting at the corner with Wanda, Amleto, and Amleto's crippled uncle (Mario Passante). They encounter a group of churchgoers walking barefoot as Cabiria is picked up by a truck driver. Lost in a cavern area, she meets a generous man giving food and things away to homeless people where she starts to question her own life. After attending a church service with friends as they are among a group of desperate people wanting a miracle from the Madonna. For Cabiria, it becomes a frustrating experience feeling nothing has changed where she finds herself at a vaudeville stage where a magician (Aldo Silvani) performs some tricks. After hypnotizing her for a trick where it is believed she will meet a man named Oscar, she finds herself confused.

After the performance, she bumps into an accountant named D'Onofrio (Francois Perier) who is charmed by what she saw. Revealing his first name to be Oscar, Cabiria isn't sure if he can be trustful but after a few dates. He seems to be the man for her where she suddenly finds herself engaged. With the prospect of a bright future, Cabiria seems to get her miracle until old feelings of being hurt again are unveiled.

The film is essentially the story of a naive yet feisty woman seeking a change for her life following a series of humiliating moments. Really, it's a character-driven film that allows the character of Cabiria to go into a series of adventures and mis-adventures that would allow her to want to make some changes. What Fellini and his co-writers create is a film that is a bit of an adventure but of a human kind. The character of Cabiria is truly complex since on the outside, she's a woman who is brash, arrogant, and willing to be playful. Yet, she is also vulnerable, not willing to listen to reason, and somewhat of a dreamer.

The development of character and the structure of the story clearly sets up scenarios for Cabiria. The first act follows Cabiria from the opening scene where she's pushed to a river where she nearly drowned to her meeting with a famous film actor. The second act is about the moment she meets a mysterious man giving away food and things to her own spiritual crisis following a Catholic ceremony that leaves her disillusioned. The third act is about Cabiria's encounter with a magician and her meeting with Oscar D'Onofrio. Despite all of these traumas, all of the humiliation, and all of the struggles she faces. She picks herself up and keeps on walking. All of these events and encounters would help shape the development of Cabiria that is filled with stylish, playful dialogue from co-writer Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Fellini's direction is truly mesmerizing from its striking compositions of scenes in and out of Rome to the emotional shots he creates for some of the film's dramatic moments. Fellini's camera is truly engaging in the exterior, ruined locations of the poor sections of Rome to the richer, chaotic, crowded world of downtown Rome as it shows a contrast of the different worlds that Cabiria lives in. Yet, there's something lavish and stylized in the scenes Fellini creates as he invites the audience into some parties or some kind of event that is truly powerful. Even the church service scene that has a group of people desperate for the power of Madonna hoping for some kind of miracle. The camera is amongst the crowd while the hypnotizing scene where Cabiria dances and such on a hypnotic state has something beautiful. The zoom shots and close-ups are done with such subtle emotion, even the final shot of the film as it's clear that Fellini is becoming more engaging in his direction and capturing the soul of its characters. The result is a film that shows Fellini starting to find his style as a director.

Cinematographer Aldo Tonti does some spectacular work with the film's black-and-white shots to complement the contrasting worlds that Cabiria ventures. From the bright, wide shots of the place and area that Cabiria lives to the crowded look of Rome. The exterior daytime photography is very bright and colorful while a lot of the nighttime exteriors is very beautiful with some great shading and compositions that are truly rich. The interior shots of the club and house that Cabiria goes to with the actor is also enchanting in its bright look and gorgeous shading for the nighttime scene in the actor's bathroom. Editor Leo Cattozzo does some fantastic work with the film's straightforward edits with wonderful transition cuts with the use of dissolves and fade-outs to help structure the story in its scene and acts.

Production/costume designer Piero Gherardi does great work in the look of the home of the actor, Cabiria's house, and most of all. The church filled with lots of Catholic images including a statue of the Madonna. Gherardi's work in the costume is wonderful with the clothes and look for Cabiria along with the stylized look for her friends including more posh looks from the actor, his girlfriend, and Oscar. The sound work of Oscar Di Santo and Roy Mangano is excellent for capturing the chaotic atmosphere of Rome, the hollow sounds of the corner Cabiria works at, and the raucous world of the church. One of the film's great technical achievements is its whimsical, playful score by Nino Rota, a key collaborator of Fellini's. Rota's score is filled with arrangements that play with various emotions whether it's a rumba sound or upbeat for Cabiria's mood or something sad with more melancholic pieces led by the piano and strings. Rota's score is truly mesmerizing with pieces that are memorable.

The cast is phenomenal with some memorable small roles from Maria Luisa Rolando and Loretta Capitoli as a couple of prostitutes while Franco Fabrizi is good as the man who pushed Cabiria into a river. Other small roles with appearances from Dorian Gray as the moody girlfriend of actor Alberto Lazzari, Amedeo Nazarri as the charming but bored Alberto Lazzari, Ennio Girolami as Cabiria's pimp Amleto, Mario Passante as Amleto's crippled uncle, and as the magician, Aldo Silvani. In the role of Cabiria's fellow prostitute and friend Wanda, Franca Marzi is great as the big yet realistic woman who helps Cabiria in every thing that happens while being the supportive friend. In the role of Oscar, Francois Perier is excellent as the charming man who offers kindness while being the guy who seems likes the perfect man and such.

Finally, there's Giuletta Masina in what is truly one of cinema's most dazzling performances as Cabiria. Masina's performance is full of such complex emotions as when she's up, she is a person full of life. Can do things very spontaneously while in dances, she moves to the beat of her own drum. When she's down, she's dramatic and angry where she'll get into fights or be extremely emotional. It's a tour-de-force performance from the wife of Federico Fellini who is clearly the heart and soul of the film as her performance is truly one of a kind.

Le notti di Cabiria is a whimsical yet character-driven film from Federico Fellini thanks in parts to the wonderful, engaging performance of Giuletta Masina. Audiences new to Fellini will see this as a nice place to start while it is considered essential in both Fellini's great film library as well as one of the most beloved films of European cinema. With a great film score by Nino Rota and wonderful images, it's a film that is truly entertaining while featuring a protagonist who has a spirit that is truly mesmerizing. In the end, Le notti di Cabiria is a brilliant yet heart-wrenching film from Federico Fellini.

Federico Fellini Films: (Variety Lights) - The White Sheik - (L'amore in Citta-Un'agenzia matrimoniale) - I, Vitelloni - La Strada - Il bidone - La Dolce Vita - (Boccaccio '70-Le tentazioni del Dottor Antonio) - 8 1/2 - Juliet of the Spirits - Histoires extraordinaires-Toby Dammmit - (Fellini: A Director's Notebook) - Fellini Satyricon - (I Clowns) - Roma - Amarcord - Casanova - Orchestra Rehearsal - City of Women - And the Ship Sails On - Ginger and Fred - (Intervista) - (The Voice of the Moon)

© thevoid99 2012


Chip Lary said...

This is my favorite of all the Fellini films that I have seen and that is because of Masina.

thevoid99 said...

Of what I've seen so far by Fellini, La Dolce Vita remains my favorite though my favorite Masina performance is this film.

Anonymous said...

This is also my favorite Fellini. I love the Cabiria character and Masina won my heart within minutes.

I agree about the style of the film. It's easy to get caught up in the story and character of this film but the way it's shot and put together makes some of these sequences so much more engaging and fantastical. The magician scene is pure movie magic.

thevoid99 said...

@cinemasights-It's one of Fellini's best and certainly entertaining. The moment of the film that drew me in was Cabiria's dancing with her friends as she was the center of the attention. If there was something else going, I could care less because I was so into Massina's performance. It definitely needs a Criterion reissue.