Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini / Italy, 1957):
(Le Notti di Cabiria)

Cabiria la passeggiatrice, Federico Fellini's luckless Spelunkenjenny, "she lives the life." A Chaplin view from the opening long shot to the concluding close-up and the innumerable arrangements of comedy and tragedy in between, the pixie with the painted eyebrow-slashes and furry, striped blouse (Giulietta Masina) bounces through. Fished out of the Tiber after being bumped in by a thieving beau, she swears off love and vents at the Passeggiata Archeologica along her fellow prostitutes. (Much of their squalid vibrancy comes courtesy of Pier Paolo Pasolini, salty street dialect hollered like verse and reiterated in Mamma Roma.) The glitz of Via Veneto is like another planet until the jilted matinee idol (Amedeo Nazzari) whisks her away to his palatial villa, where she manages to grab a single olive from the banquet before having to spend the night hidden in the bathroom. Creature solitarie everywhere, an elided episode follows a humble philanthropist and spots Cabiria's possible future as a crone crawling out of a cave; pious pilgrimages and music-halls are two sides of the same business of dreams, one has a Madonna altar swarmed by supplicating masses and the other has a seedy mesmerist with rubber horns under his top hat. (The heroine pantomimes a scene of purity while in a trace and awakens to a cackling audience.) "Some things cannot be touched by human vulgarity," declares the bashful suitor (François Périer) who talks of fate and rekindles her romantic hopes. Fellini's sad and magical nocturne, a demimonde hopping to Nino Rota's nightclub mambo and Masina's wondrous way with silent-movie throbs. Enchantment darkens in a stroll through the woods, dissipates on the edge of a cliff before a phosphorescent sunset (a Murnau note amid the neorealism), and finally rebounds on the road with young revelers, a smile and a bow for the camera. "Guess there's some justice in the world..." The true remake is of course not Sweet Charity but Vivre Sa Vie. Cinematography by Aldo Tonti. With Franca Marzi, Dorian Gray, and Aldo Silvani. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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