WORLD CINEMA: La Strada (1954)

It’s January 2021 and the world is stranger by the minute. COVID took center stage in 2020 with politics right behind it, but one of the best things that happened last year was that, after 92 years, an international film, Parasite (2019, dir. Bong Joon-Ho) finally won the Best Picture Oscar! It was a glorious and utterly emotional moment and, while it might seem small compared to everything else, it was a beautiful moment which highlights cinema’s power to bring people together. Which is what we need. So this year here at the Garden, I will be highlighting an international movie every month. And to start things off, I shall be publishing this as part of the Home Sweet Home Blogathon hosted by my friends Rebecca and Gill. Check out the other entries!

Today we go back to 1954 with Federico Fellini’s La Strada, which was the first movie to win Best Foreign Language Film after the category’s introduction at the Oscars. Perhaps Fellini’s most personal film, La Strada follows Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina), a simple, homely young woman, who is sold by her mother to strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn) to go on the road with him and his travelling circus. As they go on their journey, Zampano makes no excuses for who he is: a violent, temperamental brute, who, at the hands of the great Anthony Quinn, never feels like a caricature, but rather someone we’ve all met at one point or another. His behavior is uncomfortable to watch as Gelsomina constantly tries to impress, excite and ultimately be loved by him. Throughout the film, we feel more and more sorry for her as she reveals herself to be one of cinema’s most tragic figures. A helpless, hopeless naive woman, who knows little more than her humble home, and who strives for what the world has to offer, without any idea of how to get it. So when tightrope artist Il Matto (Richard Basehart) tells her that she has value and a purpose in life, we can only hope she believes him…

Framed by Otello Martelli’s bleak cinematography against the backdrop of a bare, wide open Italian landscape, La Strada is a tale of abuse and loneliness, beautifully encapsulated by Masina’s soul-crushing acting, going from happiness to heartbreak in the span of seconds, with just one look. Truly one of the cinema’s greatest faces, made for one of Fellini’s most emotionally striking films.

I answer your questions!

That was fun! I had a blast answering your questions, thank you again for submitting them!

Dina asked: ‘Why is there still sexism in Hollywood to a certain degree?’

That is a very complex question and I’m probably not the best person to talk about it. There are so many factors that contribute to this, and that goes for representation, diversity, sexism, homophobia, racism, etc, but ultimately those things are reflected in Hollywood because they still exist in the real world. The system serves a limited group of people and it has been that way for years. When it comes to movies, we can see that in terms of blockbuster movies, ticket sales, female-led projects, and this is reflected in budget given to male vs female filmmakers, exposure, etc, and it takes a while for things to change. I think things are definitely improving though and cinema/TV is much more open-minded that it used to be. But we still have a long way to go.

Mike asked ‘Who is your favorite actor?’

My favorite actor is Cary Grant. Not only was he a phenomenal actor, but I also think he’s probably the best personafication of ‘movie star’.

‘What are your top 5 favorite films after The Apartment?’

Ooh, this is a tough one. It changes all the time, but for now I will say Casablanca, All About Eve, Some Like it Hot, Rear Window and Double Indemnity.

‘Who is your favorite modern actor and actress?’

Again, tough one! There are so many. If I had to pick my number 1 favorite actress, it would definitley be Cate Blanchett. My favorite actor is probably Al Pacino.

‘What is the most overlooked movie?’

I quite like The Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing. That one doesn’t get mentioned nearly as much as it should. Also The Big Combo.

Jon asked ‘Who are your five favorite screenwriters?’

Great question. Billy Wilder, Ernest Lehman, Ben Hecht, Quentin Tarantino, The Coen Brothers, among many others.

J-Dub asked ‘By reading my blog, would you conclude that I’m completely insane, brain-damaned, a heavy drinker or all of the above?’

Haha, none of the above. You’re a knowledgeable movie buff and critic.

Troy asked ‘How would you feel about a remake of All about Eve, The Apartment and The Aslphalt Jungle?’

Ooh! A resounding no to all of those. Haha.

Did you see the remake of DOA and the remake of Out of the Past, Against All Odds?’

I haven’t seen the DOA one, but I’ve seen Against All Odds and it just isn’t very good. Can’t stand Rachel Ward, and honestly Out of the Past doesn’t need a remake.

Stephen asked ‘What do you think of South Korean cinema?’

Great question. This is something I hope to explore in my new series, but in general, I like it. Definitely a powerhouse.

Sofia asked ‘What is the last film you watched with Katharine Hepburn?

I watched The Lion in Winter this Christmas. I love that movie, but this was the first time I actually watched during the holidays. An unconventional Christmas movie for sure. And a very fun one!

Paul asked ‘Are there any classics most people love, but you dislike?’

Haha, always a controversial topic. I will say My Fair Lady. Not a big fan at all. It just feels dated, patronising and frankly, irritating.

Virginie asked ‘What is your favorite national cinema?’

This is an interesting question, because my new series of posts will have a little something to do with this… Anyway, I love Italian cinema and French cinema.

What is your take on British noirs?’

I love them! The Third Man is clearly the most well-known of them all, but there is a lot of great stuff there! I will try talk about some of them this Noirvember.

What is your favorite cocktail?’

Aww, nostalgia! I think we went to Be At One when you were here, and they do an amazing Pornstar Martini! Also Candy Pants. But Pornstar Martini is probably my favorite.

Thank you so much for your questions! Hope to do this again soon! Carol x

Ask Me Anything!

It’s 2021 (!), my sixth blogging year (!!) and it’s about time I did an AskMeAnything! Woop Woop! You can post your questions in the comment section under this post and I will answer them in a separate post next week. All topics are accepted (except politics), not just film-related stuff, but keep it clean. Ask away! Muah x