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In post war Italy, Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) is sold by her mother into the employ of ZampanÚ (Anthony Quinn), a brutal strongman in a travelling circus, who takes her on the road - la strada. When ZampanÚ encounters an old rival in highwire artist The Fool (Richard Basehart), his fury is provoked to its breaking point.

Review by
Composer Nino Rota began working with Fellini in 1952 and by 1954 when Fellini made La Strada, the two had established a collaboration that would last more than 25 years - and one that made the most of each other's work. Fellini's films are unimaginable without Rota's music. Rota enhanced the essence of Fellini's sensibilities, capturing the whimsy, the humour and the humanity, as well as the tumbling, carnival-like images of humanity. His music was the energy source for Fellini's images. As in La Strada, where Fellini's waif-like wife, Giuliette Masina stars opposite Hollywood's Anthony Quinn as Zampanů, the travelling carnival strongman who buys her from her poverty stricken mother and takes her on La Strada - on a journey with fable like qualities.

The two work superbly together, mismatched yet somehow fittingly opposites. A comic tone is contrasted with the dramatic and even tragic nature of the story, and we are at liberty to make our own interpretations of the film on various levels.

For me, it's simply a wonderful, lyrical and yet powerful work about humanity - about specifics of human nature that inform us about the entirety of it. The first film to win the then newly introduced Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, La Strada is a must in any film lover's DVD collection.

The disc contains a special commentary by Australia's walking film thesaurus, Paul Harris, a rare instance of a special bonus for the Australian release. Bravo Madman! It's informed and insightful, and adds that extra element to the DVD that makes it worth buying the local release. Also included is a 55 minute Fellini biography and a 55 minute Masina bio. These have some novelty and historical interest, with varying degrees of technical quality since they use stock from the 50s onwards. (Even some of the same footage.)

These are both unusual in that they don't follow the predictable patterns of contemporary docos; Fellini is interviewed on the set, between takes, in mixing sessions and elsewhere, which turns the doco into a dynamic, if stilted work. If you're interested in Fellini, in filmmaking or in the methodology of such docos, this is good material to mine.

April 14, 2005

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(Italy, 1954)

CAST: Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Baseheart, Aldo Silvani, Marcella Rovere

PRODUCER: Carlo Ponti, Dino De Laurentis

DIRECTOR: Federico Fellini

SCRIPT: Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli


MUSIC: Nino Rota

RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes

PRESENTATION: Original 4:3; DD 2.0; B & W

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by Paul Harris; Fellini autobiography; Giulietta Masina - The Power of a Smile; theatrical trailer;


DVD RELEASE: March 15, 2005

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