La Strada (1954)

la strada poster 1954 movie
9.5 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 9/10

Giulietta Masina pulls the heartstrings and pushes the movie

Anthony Quinn isn't to Masina's level

Movie Info

Movie Name: La Strada

Studio:  Ponti-De Laurentiis Cinematografica

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  September 6, 1954 (Venice)/July 16, 1956 (US)

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

la strada giulietta masina anthony quinn zampano gelsomina

He’s a total asshole…but he’s mine…maybe

Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina) is a quiet mousy girl from a poor family.  When her sister Rosa dies, strong-man performer Zampanò (Anthony Quinn) offers to take Gelsomina off her mother’s hands to be his assistant.  Gelsomina is seeing the world for the first time and experiencing a life she never expected.  Despite Zampanò cruel behavior and treatment of her, Gelsomina finds her new life better than her old life and even befriends a fellow performer in Il Matto aka the Fool (Richard Basehart).  Il Matto and Zampanò aren’t on the same page about many things, but they both have interest in Gelsomina…but loyalty could have a price.

Written and directed by Federico Fellini (with additional scripting by Tullio Pinelli and Ennio Flaiano), La Strada (aka The Road) is an Italian drama.  Following Fellini’s I Vitelloni in 1953 and a segment of Love in the City also in 1953, the film pushed Fellini to a nervous breakdown, but was one of his most well received films over his career.  The film received an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and a nomination for Best Original Screenplay.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #219) and it was also included as part of the Essential Fellini boxset.

If you like film, Federico Fellini is someone that you at least have to attempt to like.  If you are willing to give in to the idea that you might not understand all the nuances of his scripts and films, you can begin to see while his work is hailed and endures.

la strada giulietta masina anthony quinn zampano gelsomina wedding

Come one, come all to a really bad drum circle featuring one drum

There is a simplicity to La Strada that sometimes plays as a slice of life.  While it is a drama, there is a kindness and sympathy to it that is largely brought by the Gelsomina character and her sympathy and love of life.  She is fiercely loyal (she even explains about how she wanted to leave Zampanò multiple times, but she stayed with him) and though she seems rather simple, her empathy replaces what she is missing in intelligence…she’s a genuine good person.  That is why it is so heartbreaking that when she finds another person that matches with her in the Fool that her loyalty overrides her desire…and it release to tragedy for all involved.

Giulietta Masina really owns the role and has many moments that are memorable from her classic clown performances to the moment where she breaks…and is unable to maintain her grasp on reality from what she has seen and in turn been an accomplice to.  Anthony Quinn is a bit tougher.  He blusters and bumbles as a drunk, and he is roughly dubbed into Italian which hurts his character a bit.  Fortunately the character is supposed to be a blowhard jerk and Quinn’s acting matches up with it.  Richard Basehart is the Fool (and also dubbed), but he’s also the jester.  He likes to play and sometimes people are hurt…but it is like he’s in his own world, and the hurt he takes for his actions isn’t equivalent.  He’s almost just collateral damage for Zampanò’s rage.

la strada giulietta masina richard basehart the fool gelsomina

You know you don’t have to settle if you don’t want to…

The movie is simple as well.  It presents a very real and very poor Italy where scrounging and scrimping is the only means to get by.  The make-up and look of the film just fits the story and the coldness of the land in the ending matches the coldness that the story ends in.

You hope La Strada is going to end differently.  You hope that either Zampanò will realize he loves Gelsomina and fix the errors of his way or that Gelsomina will decide that The Fool is a better match for her and tell off Zampanò…but it unfortunately doesn’t end that way.  The dice are rolled and the damage is done…and the only one who makes it out alive is the least deserving.  It’s a hard, cold world.  Fellini followed La Strada with Il Bidone in 1955.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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