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Nights of Cabiria

Directed by Federico Fellini.
With Giulietta Masina, François Périer, Franca Marzi.
Italy/France, 1957, DCP, black & white, 110 min.
Italian with English subtitles.
DCP source: Rialto Pictures

Fellini’s most fruitful collaboration with his wife Giulietta Masina exploits the full potential of the actor’s bright face and youthful demeanor, pitting that vulnerability against the harsh realities of Rome street life. As Maria “Cabiria” Ceccarelli, a headstrong prostitute who longs for love and respect, Masina radiates in her wide eyes a woman torn between competing impulses: impulsiveness and calculation, open-hearted affection and defiant independence, and romantic daydreaming and survivalist instinct. In extreme long shot and loving close-up, Fellini spotlights her as an almost Chaplinesque figure enduring the crucible of modern life, a milieu relentless in its parade of callous men, opportunistic schemers and fair-weather friends. Rome is seen as a half-occupied netherworld of crumbling buildings, shadowy back alleys, and sun-blasted fields dotted with bunkers for the homeless—an omen of Cabiria’s continuing spinsterdom. Both a hardened assessment of the pitfalls of social climbing and a wary take on stagnation, Nights of Cabiria ultimately dispels the anxieties it dredges up in a send-off that counts among cinema’s most elating visions.

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