Director: Federico Fellini
Screenwriter: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli
Starring: Giulietta Masina,Amedeo Nazzari, François Périer, Franca Marzi
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%
Synopsis: “The magnificent Giulietta Masina (Fellini’s wife) plays an eternally optimistic Rome streetwalker with a heart of gold and a head of cotton candy in her husband’s Oscar-winning masterpiece. This funny, poignant classic inspired the musical “Sweet Charity” and is a must-see for Fellini fans.” – Google
Our Take: Giulietta Masina’s energetic lady of the night Cabiria may have made her first appearance in Federico Fellini’s delightful 1952 comedy/drama The White Sheik but it was the Oscar-winning Nights of Cabiria that brought the character to the fore and cemented Masina as an icon of cinema.
Often referred to as the female ‘Chaplin’, thanks to enthusiastic and energetic on-screen behaviour as well as an inclination towards clown-ish characteristics in her performances (perhaps most notably in Fellini’s La Strada), Masina has never been better than in Nights of Cabiria, a role which would win her the Best Actress award at Cannes Film Festival.
Nights of Cabiria is something of a transition film for Fellini; his next film would be La Dolce Vita, the film which would irrefutably announce the director’s association with a certain style and irreversibly shift his focus from his neorealistic roots to something entirely unique to himself.
Cabiria is a prostitute, but not a romanticised one like Julia Roberts’ Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman or Rebecca De Mornay’s Lara in Risky Business, or even the central character in Sweet Charity, the musical and subsequent movie that was based on Nights of Cabiria. Cabiria’s Rome is a Rome of back streets, late nights and unsavoury acquaintances. But Cabiria’s optimism and spirit in spite of her circumstance (immortalised by the film’s unforgettable final shot), channeled through Masini’s electric performance and coupled with Fellini’s irresistible sense of image make the character and the film one of the finest that the legendary director ever created.