LA STRADA



Acclaimed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini drew on his own circus background for the 1954 classic La Strada. Set in a seedy travelling carnival, this symbolism-laden drama revolves around brutish strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn), his simple and servile girlfriend Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wife), and clown/aerialist Matto (Richard Basehart). Appalled at Zampano's insensitive treatment of Gelsomina, the gentle-natured Matto invites her to run off with him; but Gelsomina, like a faithful pet, refuses to leave the strong man's side. Eventually Zampano's volcanic temper erupts once too often, leading to tragic consequences. No bare-bones synopsis can do full justice to this towering cinematic achievement: La Strada is essential viewing for serious film buff and casual film fan alike. Written by Fellini and Tullio Pinelli and scored by Nino Rota, La Strada was the winner of the first official Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, awarded in 1956. Hal Erickson

La Strada is often considered one of the masterpieces of 20th century filmmaking, a sad and poignant remembrance of innocence lost and of the roads that each of us must choose. As with much of the work of director Frederico Fellini, man is viewed as suspended between the heavens and the earth, adroitly symbolized here by Il Matto/The Fool (Richard Baseheart), a high-wire circus performer. Fellini's motifs are among the most influential of all post-WWII filmmakers, and you'll find clever Fellini and La Strada references in such unlikely films as John Landis's Blues Brothers 2000. Giulietta Masina's Chaplin-like Gelsomina is among the screen's most poignant and tragic performances, and she, like the entire film, is aided by Nino Rota's evocative score. Fellini had few production values to work with, but here he doesn't need them. La Strada is among the most studied films of late Italian Neo-Realism and a classic of the first rank. Richard Gilliam

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