La Strada

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Federico Fellini drew on his own colorful circus background for his 1954 breakthrough film La Strada, the magical tale of love, loss and loneliness that launched him to international stardom. Directing his wife, Giulietta Masina, in the role that made her an arthouse icon, Fellini tells the story of the waifish peasant Gelsominia (the dazzling Masina) and her heartbreakingly stormy relationship with a brutish carnival strongman named Zampanò (Anthony Quinn). When the young Gelsomina is sold by her mother into the employ of Zampanò, who works for a seedy traveling circus, she becomes both an adept carnival performer and the victim of her master’s cruelty. Soon, an emotional triangle erupts with the appearance of Zampanò old rival, the clown/aerialist Matto (Richard Basehart). Appalled at Zampano’s insensitive treatment of Gelsomina, the gentle-natured Matto invites her to run off with him; but Gelsomina, like a faithful pet, refuses to leave the strong man’s side. Eventually Zampano’s volcanic temper erupts once too often, leading to tragic consequences. With La Strada, Fellini left behind many of the familiar signposts of Italian neorealism for a poetic fable of love and cruelty, evoking brilliant performances from his cast and winning the hearts of audiences and critics worldwide. An arthouse smash, La Strada was also the winner of the first official Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, awarded in 1956. (Dir. Federico Fellini, 1954, Italy, in Italian with subtitles, 108 mins., Not Rated) 35mm