La strada

Screening on Film
Directed by Federico Fellini.
With Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Basehart.
Italy, 1954, 35mm, black & white, 108 min.
Italian with English subtitles.
Print source: HFA

“Everything in this world has a purpose.” So goes the doctrine offered by one circus performer to another in Fellini’s Oscar-winning La strada, a sweet and stirring road movie that nonetheless devotes much of its duration to laying bare the unremitting cruelties of life. The character receiving these words of encouragement is Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), a childlike vagabond whose own experiences throughout the film would seem to flatly contradict such guidance. Sold into the traveling circus business by her desperate mother, Gelsomina must endure one degradation after another at the hands of Zampanò (Anthony Quinn), the brutish impresario who has recruited her to pick up the dirty work associated with running a rural touring operation. Zampanò’s signature act involves breaking a set of metal chains with his bulging pectorals, and he handles the delicate Gelsomina with the same ferocity even as she reserves for him the tenderness she can’t bestow upon anyone else. Working with Masina in a starring role for the first time and subjecting her to an intimate camera gaze, Fellini located in La strada the flickering inner life that would become such a beacon for his storytelling in the years to come.


Part of film series

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The Complete Federico Fellini

Other film series with this film

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The Divine Comedy of Federico Fellini

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Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: Actors O–T