1957 Movie Review: NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, 1957

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Movie Review

Directed by Federico Fellini
Starring: Giulietta Masina, François Périer
Review by Aria Chiodoi


A waifish prostitute wanders the streets of Rome looking for true love but finding only heartbreak.

OSCAR Winner for Best Foreign Film



Le Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria) from 1957 is another somewhat early film in Fellini’s career- a preface to his later extravagant and intellectual films. Fellini is a quintessential Italian filmmaker; it’s obvious how much he loves his country and its people, but his love is complex, never simple. If one wants an idea of life in Rome during the 50s, this film shows it, albeit with some fantastic and tragic situations. The screenplay was written by Fellini and his frequent collaborators, Ennio Flaiano and Tullio Pinelli, a writing team nominated for three Oscars (although this film wasn’t one of them, it did win Best Foreign Film). Le Notti di Cabiria also boasts another score by Nino Rota, and black and white cinematography of Otello Martelli. Pier Paolo Pasolini, who became a famous Italian director in his own right, also helped write the script.

The amazing Giulietta Masina is again the center of this film, as she was in La Strada. Here she plays Cabiria, a fun-loving, raucous, and spirited prostitute who lives on the outskirts of Rome, and works the streets of the city at night. The film begins with her getting robbed and thrown in the river by a lover- just the first of many misadventures that Cabiria experiences. Cabiria is our tour guide of Rome and its people; whether they’re rich, homeless, or just young and dancing in the streets, Cabiria comes across them all. And she handles everything with an indomitable spirit and vivacity (if this story is at all familiar, it’s because it is the basis of the musical Sweet Charity of 1969)

On this tour of Rome and its outskirts, we are shown the whores and their lovers, who dance and fight under Roman ruins, and hide in the bushes from cops. We also find the rich and famous, who lead glamorous but odd and somewhat sad lifestyles. Then, in a dreamlike but memorable scene, we follow Cabiria and her friends in a procession to the altar of the Madonna. This scene and other scenes of religious imagery display the fervent Catholicism of Italy, the wonder and piousness every Italian feels (even a simple whore like Cabiria) when faced with the prodigious altar of the Madonna. In this scene we are given the peasants and lower classes of Rome, the elderly and the sick, all coming, in the hundreds, to pray and beg for something from the Madonna. Afterwards, Cabiria goes to a magic show, and joins other volunteers from the audience on stage to be hypnotized by the magician. Fellini gives us a grave religious procession but follows it with a show of entertainment and illusion, as if to purposely blend the imagery of religion and illusion.

Cabiria herself is trying to find something in her life that has meaning. Being a prostitute is not a very glamorous or rewarding line of work; she might be taken out by a famous movie star, but then has to spend the night in his bathroom when his girlfriend shows up; she may dance with her friends in the ruins, but they all have to run from the cops every now and then. Whether it’s love or faith, her life is missing something essential, and in her roundabout way, she’s always searching for it. Her group of friends, the other whores, or ex-prostitutes and their boyfriends, are a lively bunch, who make life look fun and breezy, but they don’t understand Cabiria’s need for something meaningful.

When Cabiria meets a nice and respectable man who thinks their meeting is destiny, her prayers may be answered. She might have a chance for a pleasant and normal life with a good man, but knowing Fellini, this could just be another misadventure. I don’t want to ruin anything, but while many may see the ending as tragic and sad, through the tragedy there is life, a life that should be celebrated. Fellini ends on a note of hope, since Cabiria is actually (although she often blunders and gravely misjudges) a ray of hope. Whatever she experiences, she gets back up and brushes it off, smiles through her tears and moves on, searching for something new. Some may call her a fool with no real future, but I saw her as a symbol of humanity: although one meets with tragedy and bad luck, the only thing to do is keep going, and find the good in life again. The face of Masina in the last shot is powerful and poignant, it can make one smile or cry, or do both, as she does. In La Notti di Cabiria, Fellini focuses on the character of Cabiria, and on the colorful Italian community of people who are full of exuberance, in order to capture life and the endurance of humanity.




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1967 Movie Review: LE SAMOURAI, 1967

Thriller Movie Review
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Starring Alain Delon, Francois Perier, Cathy Rosier
Review by Alex Haight

Hitman Jef Costello is a perfectionist who always carefully plans his murders and who never gets caught. One night however, after killing a night-club owner, he’s seen by witnesses. His efforts to provide himself with an alibi fail and more and more he gets driven into a corner.SYNOPSIS:


“There is not greater solitude than that of a Samourai, unless it’s that of a tiger in the jungle…perhaps.” -Bushido (Book of the Samourai)

Modeled on the notion that emotion shows weakness, Alain Delon’s eponymous role as a hired assassin plays as strong a performance than any other who have attempted to bring bravado and sleekness to the muscle persona.

Delon plays Jef Costello a minimalist, cold and precise gun for hire who’s on the run after botching his most recent job at a swanky French nightclub. While the subject doesn’t sound particularly striking, it plays out like an expansive avant-garde exercise in patience, technique and vulnerability.

Those who have seen the film , will know that the story is about process and a mans understanding of a solitary existence-that by choice we lead ourselves towards an inevitable end…what happens to us on our way there, cannot be stopped…but it can be persuaded.

This thinking bleeds out of Alain’ Jef. With a cold stare and equally frigid heart, Jef lives in a state of limbo throughout the picture. He is the human gray area. Not truly defined by earnest emotion, but rather a striking sense of arrogance and helplessness living between the role of citizen and killer. It’s when those characteristics meld that we see the efficient, and controlled mind of Le Samourai emerge.

“Never has a man put on a hat and coat so perfectly.”

Shot with immaculate precision by Henri Decae, the film truly defines the new wave/neo-noir style. Where once shadows existed to hide the brooding sinister beings looking to terrorize us, Melville strips away the dark and pushes them right in our face.The use of colour and tone really sets up the movie from the very first second. A two minute static shot of a lone gunman smoking inside his empty apartment while his pet bird chirps from inside his cage screams for the arthouse crowd. More importantly though rather than solely being eye candy this shot perhaps juxtaposes that inside Jef too is trapped and crying out? Perhaps this leads to his mis–calculation at the club?Maybe?

When one thinks of it, takes a pretty cold bast’d to be able to give you chills in broad daylight, and Melville understands this…making every shot, transition and cut logical and effective. The man is really painting here. Bold washed out stripes of fury and isolated blobs of colour- the summation of Le Samourai’ effectiveness as something much more than just 105 minutes of film. There is energy, and prowess, achieving something more than the traditional genre gazer would anticipate.

However, those expecting a taught, action based shoot ‘em up fraught with quips and womanizing- ala James Bond may be a little let down. Think of it as the art-house 007. A French Bourne, perhaps. Less hulk, more sulk.

Leading the way for such filmmakers as John Woo, Gus Van Zant, The Coen Brothers (view this, then screen the duo’s minimalist masterpiece NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN-eerie no?)…Melville fills the screen with many washed out, static shots, tracking the supposed arrogance of the title character, and the tumultuous existence he lives, displays and balances.

It is for all these reasons that I continue to re-watch this movie and turn people onto this otherwise unknown story, so that they too can experience one of the most calculated characters in modern cinema.3/5-AH

I also recommend these titles: Man Bites Dog, Un Flic, Les Diaboliques.