Sunday, July 06, 2008

La Strada

Finally caught up with Fellini’s La Strada again after some 45 years or so. I remembered the story in outline, but had forgotten most of the detail. Guilietta Masina’s face had also stayed in the memory, but I’d forgotten what a superb performance Anthony Quinn gives in the movie. Because he’s such an unpleasant character, you tend to overlook just how much detail there is in his character. Richard Basehart is good, oddly cast in some ways, and has really only a couple of decent scenes in the movie. It’s hard to tell whether the Italian is his or is dubbed – in the version I’ve just watched the speech seemed just a bit out of sync. Quinn’s Italian is full in your face. Even though he was a Mexican by birth he does an extraordinary job of appearing to be fully Italian in every way.
Masina was probably too old for the part, but carries it off superbly, a full range of emotions often flitting across her face in a few seconds.
The movie is also significant for capturing a period in Italian history so well: I suspect there’s very little of this kind of Italy still in existence. Even given Fellini’s penchant for oddball moments the camera catches all manner of ordinary faces and mannerisms and scenes that have vanished. You almost wish Fellini had carried on along this line with his movies. Superb as the later, great movies are, they often show a freakish world, not one that’s true to the country. Perhaps it’s more that the films between La Strada and La Dolce Vita are mostly unknown to people outside Italy, and so we don’t see the transition.

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