La Strada

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La Strada

Theatrical release poster
Directed byFederico Fellini
Produced byDino De Laurentiis
Carlo Ponti
Screenplay byFederico Fellini
Tullio Pinelli
Ennio Flaiano
Story byFederico Fellini
Tullio Pinelli
StarringAnthony Quinn
Giulietta Masina
Richard Basehart
Music byNino Rota
CinematographyOtello Martelli
Carlo Carlini
Editing byLeo Cattozzo
Distributed byTrans Lux Inc.
Release date(s)
  • 6 September 1954 (1954-09-06) (Venice)
  • 22 September 1954 (1954-09-22) (Italy)
Running time104 minutes
CountryItaly
LanguageItalian
 
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La Strada

Theatrical release poster
Directed byFederico Fellini
Produced byDino De Laurentiis
Carlo Ponti
Screenplay byFederico Fellini
Tullio Pinelli
Ennio Flaiano
Story byFederico Fellini
Tullio Pinelli
StarringAnthony Quinn
Giulietta Masina
Richard Basehart
Music byNino Rota
CinematographyOtello Martelli
Carlo Carlini
Editing byLeo Cattozzo
Distributed byTrans Lux Inc.
Release date(s)
  • 6 September 1954 (1954-09-06) (Venice)
  • 22 September 1954 (1954-09-22) (Italy)
Running time104 minutes
CountryItaly
LanguageItalian

La Strada (The Road) is a 1954 Italian neo-realist drama directed by Federico Fellini from his own screenplay co-written with Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano. The film portrays the journey of its two main characters: the brutish strongman played by Anthony Quinn and a naïve young woman (Giulietta Masina) whom he buys from her mother and takes with him to see the world; their encounters with his old rival the Fool (Richard Basehart) are their road to destruction. It won the inaugural Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1956.[1][2] It was placed fourth in the 1992 British Film Institute directors' list of cinema's top 10 films.[3]

Contents

Plot

Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), a credulous young woman, learns that her sister Rosa has died since going on the road with the strongman Zampanò (Anthony Quinn). Now the same man has returned a year later to ask her mother if Gelsomina will take Rosa's place. The mother accepts 10,000 lire and her daughter departs the same day.

Zampanò makes his living as an itinerant street performer, entertaining crowds by breaking an iron chain bound tightly across his chest, then passing the hat for tips. In short order, Gelsomina's naïve and antic nature emerges, with Zampanò's brutish methods presenting a callous foil. He teaches her to play the snare drum and trumpet, dance a bit, and clown for the audience. Despite her willingness to please, he relies on intimidation and even cruelty at times to maintain his dominion.

Finally, she rebels and leaves, making her way into town. There she watches the act of another street entertainer, Il Matto ("The Fool"), a talented high wire artist and clown (Richard Basehart). When Zampanò finds her there, he forcibly takes her back. They join a ragtag travelling circus where Il Matto already works. Il Matto teases the strongman at every opportunity, though he cannot explain what motivates him to do so. On being drenched by a pail of water, Zampanò chases after his tormentor with his knife drawn; as a result, both men are briefly jailed and eventually fired.

Gelsomina's difficulties with her forced partnership are the subject of frequent soul searching. After Il Matto's release from prison, he proposes that there are alternatives to her servitude, and imparts his philosophy that everything and everyone has a purpose—even a pebble, even her. A nun suggests that Gelsomina's purpose in life is comparable to her own. But when Gelsomina offers the possibility of marriage, Zampanò brushes her off.

The separate paths of fool and strongman cross for the last time on an empty stretch of road, when Zampanò comes upon Il Matto fixing a flat tire. As Gelsomina watches in horror, the strongman strikes the clown on the head several times. Il Matto complains that his watch is broken, then collapses and dies. Zampanò hides the body and pushes the car off the road.

The killing breaks Gelsomina's spirit. After ten days, her affect remains flat and her eyes lifeless. Finally Zampanò abandons her while she is taking a nap.

Some years later, he overhears a woman singing a tune Gelsomina often played. He learns that the woman's father had found Gelsomina on the beach and kindly taken her in. However, she had wasted away and died. Zampanò gets drunk and wanders to the beach, where he breaks down and cries uncontrollably.

Cast

Production

Giulietta Masina plays Gelsomina in La Strada

Background

The idea for the character Zampanò came from Fellini's youth in the coastal town of Rimini. A pig castrator lived there who was known as a womanizer: according to Fellini, "This man took all the girls in town to bed with him; once he left a poor idiot girl pregnant and everyone said the baby was the devil's child."[4] In 1992, Fellini told Canadian director Damian Pettigrew that he had conceived the film at the same time as co-scenarist Tullio Pinelli in a kind of "orgiastic synchronicity":

I was directing I vitelloni, and Tullio had gone to see his family in Turin. At that time, there was no autostrada between Rome and the north and so you had to drive through the mountains. Along one of the tortuous winding roads, he saw a man pulling a carretta, a sort of cart covered in tarpaulin... A tiny woman was pushing the cart from behind. When he returned to Rome, he told me what he'd seen and his desire to narrate their hard lives on the road. 'It would make the ideal scenario for your next film,' he said. It was the same story I'd imagined but with a crucial difference: mine focused on a little traveling circus with a slow-witted young woman named Gelsomina. So we merged my flea-bitten circus characters with his smoky campfire mountain vagabonds. We named Zampanò after the owners of two small circuses in Rome: Zamperla and Saltano.[5]

Filming locations

The film was shot in Bagnoregio, Viterbo, Lazio, Ovindoli, L'Aquila, and Abruzzo.[6]

Music

The main theme by Nino Rota is "Travelling Down a Lonely Road", a wistful tune that appears in the film first as a melody played by the Fool on a kit violin and later by Gelsomina after she learns the trumpet. Its last cue in the penultimate scene is sung by the woman who tells Zampano the fate of Gelsomina after he abandoned her.

Distribution

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival on September 6, 1954 and won the Silver Lion. It opened wide in Italy on September 22, 1954, and in the United States on July 16, 1956.

Reception

Italy and France

Tullio Cicciarelli of Il Lavoro nuovo saw the film as "an unfinished poem," left unfinished deliberately by the filmmaker for fear that "its essence be lost in the callousness of critical definition, or in the ambiguity of classification." Cicciarelli claimed that:

La Strada cannot be classified nor does it sustain the weight of rational discussion and comparison (when the film was shown at the Venice Film Festival, many critics saw in it suggestions of Chaplin). The film should be accepted for its strange fragility and its often too colourful, almost artificial moments, or else totally rejected. If we try to analyze Fellini's film, its fragmentary quality becomes immediately evident and we are obliged to treat each fragment, each personal comment, each secret confession separately.[7]

In Il Secolo XIX, Ermanno Contini praised Fellini as "a master story-teller" and wrote:

The narrative is light and harmonious, drawing its essence, resilience, uniformity and purpose from small details, subtle annotations and soft tones that slip naturally into the humble plot of a story apparently void of action. But how much meaning, how much ferment enrich this apparent simplicity. It is all there although not always clearly evident, not always interpreted with full poetical and human eloquence: it is suggested with considerable delicacy and sustained by a subtle emotive force.[8]

When the film was released in France in 1955, Dominique Aubier of Les Cahiers du cinéma thought La Strada belonged to "the mythological class, a class intended to captivate the critics more perhaps than the general public." Aubier concluded:

Fellini attains a summit rarely reached by other film directors: style at the service of the artist’s mythological universe. This example once more proves that the cinema has less need of technicians—there are too many already—than of creative intelligence. To create such a film, the author must have had not only a considerable gift for expression but also a deep understanding of certain spiritual problems.[9]

Personal significance

In an interview, Fellini explained that from "a sentimental point of view," he was "most attached" to La Strada: "Above all, because I feel that it is my most representative film, the one that is the most autobiographical; for both personal and sentimental reasons, because it is the film that I had the greatest trouble in realizing and that gave me the most difficulty when it came time to find a producer."[10] Of all the imaginary beings he had brought to the screen, Fellini felt closest to the three principals of La Strada, "especially Zampano." [11]

Influence

A musical based on the film opened on Broadway on December 14, 1969, but closed after one performance.

Serbian rock band La Strada took their name from the film.

Bob Dylan cites La Strada as an influence for the song "Mr. Tambourine Man".[12]

Kris Kristofferson has said[13] that La Strada was an inspiration for the song "Me and Bobby McGee", which is heard in the road movie Two-Lane Blacktop.

One of the narrators in Mark Z. Danielewski's novel House of Leaves is named Zampanò.

Awards and nominations

Award/FestivalCategoryWinner/NomineeResult
Academy Awards[2]Best Foreign Language FilmFederico FelliniWon
Best Writing, Best Original ScreenplayFederico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio FlaianoNominated
Bodil Awards[14]Best European FilmFederico FelliniWon
Blue Ribbon AwardsBest Foreign Language FilmFederico FelliniWon
British Academy of Film and Television ArtsBest Film from any SourceFederico FelliniNominated
Best Foreign ActressGiulietta MasinaNominated
Cinema Writers Circle Awards, SpainBest Foreign FilmFederico FelliniWon
Nastro d'ArgentoSilver Ribbon; Best DirectorFederico FelliniWon
Silver Ribbon; Best ProducerDino De Laurentiis, Carlo PontiWon
Silver Ribbon; Best Story/ScreenplayDino De Laurentiis, Tullio PinelliWon
Kinema Junpo Awards, JapanBest Foreign Language FilmFederico FelliniWon
New York Film Critics Circle AwardsBest Foreign Language FilmFederico FelliniWon
Venice Film Festival[15]Silver LionFederico FelliniWon
Golden LionFederico FelliniNominated

Note

See also

References

Notes
  1. ^ Kezich, 406.
  2. ^ a b "The 29th Academy Awards (1957) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/legacy/ceremony/29th-winners.html. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  3. ^ The Sight & Sound Top Ten Poll: 1992 Retrieved 2012-6-15
  4. ^ Fellini, Fellini on Fellini, 11.
  5. ^ Fellini and Pettigrew, 89-90.
  6. ^ IMDb, La Strada filming locations.
  7. ^ First published 2 October 1954 in Il Lavoro nuovo (Genoa). Fava and Vigano, 82
  8. ^ First published 8 September 1954 in Il Secolo XIX(Genoa). Fava and Vigano, 83
  9. ^ First published in Les Cahiers du cinéma , No. 49, July 1955. Fava and Vigano, 83
  10. ^ Murray, Ten Film Classics, 85. Retrieved 2012-6-15
  11. ^ Salachas, Federico Fellini, 115. Retrieved 2012-6-15
  12. ^ Trager, Oliver (2004), Keys to the Rain: The Definitive Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Billboard Books
  13. ^ Two-Lane Blacktop DVD, supplement "Somewhere Near Salinas," Criterion Collection
  14. ^ "Bodil Awards 1956". bodilprisen.dk. http://www.bodilprisen.dk/1956. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  15. ^ Weiler, A.H. (17 July 1956). "La Strada Review". NY Times. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9B01EEDD103DEE3BBC4F52DFB166838D649EDE. Retrieved 2011-10-25. 
  16. ^ Kezich, 156
Bibliography
  • Fava, Claudio G., and Aldo Vigano. The Films of Federico Fellini. New York: Citadel Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8065-0928-7
  • Fellini, Federico. Fellini on Fellini. Delacorte Press, 1974.
  • Fellini, Federico, and Damian Pettigrew (ed). I'm a Born Liar: A Fellini Lexicon. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003. ISBN 0-8109-4617-3
  • Kezich, Tullio. Fellini: His Life and Work. New York: Faber and Faber, 2006. ISBN 0-571-21168-2
  • Salachas, Gilbert. Federico Fellini. New York: Crown Publishers, 1969.
  • Murray, Edward. Ten Film Classics: A Re-Viewing. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1978.
Further reading
  • (Italian) Aristarco, Guido. La Strada. In: Cinema Nuovo, n° 46, Novembre 1954.
  • (Italian) Bastide, F., J. Caputo, and C. Marker. 'La Strada', un film di Federico Fellini. Paris: Du Seul, 1955.
  • Fellini, Federico, Peter Bondanella, and Manuela Gieri. La Strada. Rutgers Films in Print, 2nd edizione 1991, ISBN 0-8135-1237-9.
  • (Italian) Flaiano, Ennio. "Ho parlato male de La Strada", in: Cinema, n.139, August 1954.
  • (Italian) Redi, Riccardo. "La Strada", in: Cinema, n° 130, March 1954.
  • Swados, Harvey. "La Strada: Realism and the Comedy of Poverty." in: Yale French Studies, n° 17, 1956, p. 38-43.
  • (Italian) Torresan, Paolo, and Franco Pauletto (2004). 'La Strada'. Federico Fellini. Perugia: Guerra Edizioni, lingua italiana per stranieri, Collana: Quaderni di cinema italiano per stranieri, p. 32. ISBN 88-7715-790-9, ISBN 978-88-7715-790-4
  • Young, Vernon. "La Strada: Cinematographic Intersections." in: The Hudson Review, Vol. 9, n° 3, Autumn 1956, p. 437-434.

External links