Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nights of Cabiria

Nights of Cabiria is a pretty good movie with a great ending. The conclusion didn't quite get me to love a movie that I wasn't crazy about the rest of the time, but it did solidify my opinion that it was more interesting than 8 1/2, the first film by Federico Fellini that I saw. It stars his wife Giulietta Masina as Cabiria, a prostitute who works the streets of Rome and has trouble discerning the real intentions of men who try to court her outside of her job. She won a number of awards for her performance, and it's a memorable one, although I think it's a bit too silly to truly be great. The movie tries to be both a comedy and a drama, and I didn't think the combination meshed as well as it could have. Generally I'm just a little put off by some of the things Fellini does, leaving him as one of the great directors whose work I seem to identify with the least. His trend of dubbing all the dialogue in the movie is distracting, and it seems like all of the characters are always shouting in those Italian accents which can just get abrasive.

But I guess it speaks to his skill that these annoyances don't overshadow the fact that it's still a good film at its core. Most of the actors do good jobs despite all the shouting, and it's a really nice looking movie. It almost feels modern with some of the choices in composition that just weren't very common in the Hollywood of the time, and they serve the simple story well. I think it's supposed to be in the neo-realist style that was so popular in post-war Italy, and while some of the more silly comedic bits don't really help sell that, the simple plotting and dark turn that things take definitely fit the description. I guess I should bring this back to that ending. You can usually tell when something bad is going to happen in a story even though the events going on at the time are totally happy, just by what's happening at the time. If it seems like they should have said "and they lived happily ever after" a couple minutes ago, then they probably won't. The way the tension builds as you wait for the other shoe to drop as Nights of Cabiria comes to a close is incredible well done, and it's pretty devastating when it finally does. Maybe not as harsh as The Bicycle Thief, but it's a great sequence, and then Fellini eases the suffering just a bit with a simple and elegant denouement that doesn't whitewash what happened but still makes life seem just a little better. I only wish that more of the preceding hour and forty minutes could have been as powerful.

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