PG, 1 hr. 55 min. Directed By: Federico Fellini. Release Date: Sep 6, 1954. DVD Release Date: Nov 18, 2003.
One of my favorite things about this exploration of the classics is that it’s making me rethink my preconceptions. I think I’ve written before that my thoughts on classic foreign films was they were sort of high on drama and random imagery… and a little bit of nonsense, some cultural interplay that I generally regarded as folly. There were a lot of foreign films suggested when I asked for help from my readers, and I’ve found that while there are occasional parts of these movies that match my misperception, many of these movies are well, brilliant. It’s not just people pensively smoking, or scenes where balloons float lazily through city streets.
La Strada, for instance, has none of that kind of stuff, although there was some of that in the other Fellini film I’ve watched for this project, 8 ½. It has some truly terrible moments: Gelsomina is a “girl” (although clearly Giuletta Masina has long since left girlhood behind) who is a free spirit, and who may have some sort of mild mental condition. Not Down’s, but something’s going on in that head that isn’t quite normal. She’s sold into servitude to Anthony Quinn, who immediately begins to train her to support his strongman act, and refers to her as his wife. I’m not sure if he says that to make it more socially acceptable for them to be living, working and sleeping in the close conditions of his motorcycle-driven cart, or if something else was supposed to be going on, but their relationship was dysfunctionally tempestuous enough that I sort of doubt it… and Quinn’s Zampano was a bit of a skirt chaser, usually doing so with Gelsomina sitting right next to him.
The story is tragic, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s tragic, but it doesn’t seem to really go anywhere, and it’s possible that Gelsomina’s inherent strangeness is part of the problem. She seems like a nice, simple girl who gets treated poorly for her entire on camera life. When her journey on the strada ends, it doesn’t seem like anything has really changed. In keeping with my preconception of foreign classics, there is no happy ending here, although I do think it’s interesting to note that several lessons are learned by the characters, and not in the ways you might expect.
This is worth watching, if for no other reason than it’s a very unique take on story telling for a movie. It has some great characters, although I’m wondering how much of the dialogue was dubbed. It always seems like several of the characters mouth movements don’t match what they’re actually saying, and for sure the girl singing toward the end of the film is dubbed, because you can hear the click of the recording start in.