SAT 9 MAY @ 4PM | Arc Cinema | $12/$10
1954 | M | 104 mins | 35mm | Italy | D: Fredrico Fellini
The wonder of La Strada - 'The Way' or 'The Road' - is not that it is so good, but that it was made at all. At a time when documentary-style neorealism dominated Italian cinema, Fellini told a story which reflected his own dream-based vision of the world as a theatre of wonders, inhabited by extraordinary people.
Childhood in rural Romagna made him familar with itinerent show performers like the phoney strong-man Zampano (slang for a kind of sausage, shaped like a pig's foot) and his dreamy helper - or slave? - Gelsomina, but putting them on screenaroused the enmity of realist as Zavattini and Visconti.
Riots followed its prize-winning screening at Venice, with rival supporters brawling in the streets. Anthony Quinn thought so little of the film that he sold his share before it was even released. La Strada's success disconcerted Fellini, particularly since most of the praise went to his wife Giulietta Masina. Concieved as a Pierrot Lunaire-innocent, the character of Gelsomina became in her hands a shrewd and observant individual, with a quality of watchful dignity. We watch her emerge from Zampano's shadow into the film's tragic heroine, an emblem of man's inhumanity to women.
Not above jealousy, Fellini foiled attempts by producer Dino de Laurentis to make sequels featuring the character: Gelsomina on a Bicycle was suggested. He also resisted her suggestions about music, proposing a piece by Corelli, until Nino Rota presented him with a nameless tune, marked tranquillo, on a single sheet of hand-ruled music paper. 'Do you want this?', he asked off-handedly. The first recording alone of Gelsomina's plaintive trumpet theme sold two million copies.
Notes by John Baxter.