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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Full Frame
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  Subtitles
    English
  Extras
  • Teaser trailer
  • 4 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • 2 Documentaries

La Strada

/AV Channel . R4 . B&W . 104 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

If, quite a few years ago, you were visiting London and happened to find yourself near the Baker Street Cinema, you would have seen a strange sight.

You would have seen a young woman sitting in the gutter, crying uncontrollably. A young man would have been standing next to her, trying to get her to stand up. People walking past were saying things to him like 'you brute', or 'you bounder' (very British, the last.)

The young woman was my girlfriend. And I was the brute. I deserved the attacks. I had, after all, been pitiless and cruel. I had taken my girlfriend to the cinema to see Fellini's La Strada even though I knew from first-hand experience its harrowing emotional power.

This 1953 Italian movie won Fellini the first of his four Best Foreign Picture Oscars. It was well deserved -- this is a consummate piece of film-making. And its cosmopolitan cast -- one actor from Mexico (Anthony Quinn), one from the USA (Richard Basehart) and one Italian (Giuletta Masina) created a wonderful synergy. Their portrayals of the tragic trio who make up this tale of cruel jealously and suffering and thwarted love, could not have been bettered. Their acting is what verisimo drama is all about.

Anthony Quinn is just superb as Zampano, a Circus strong-man, who picks up the simple, naive village-girl Gelsomina to act as his assistant, cook, bed-warmer and everything else. She has no choice; she is sold to Zampano by her mother. And she lacks the will or free spirit to break from a brutal relationship. This is the sort of life she knew, and will always know.

Fellini chose his wife Giuletta Masina to play Gelsomina, and her portrayal is one of the outstanding screen characterisations. So vivid is her portrayal that it's hard not to believe that this is the real character -- impossible to reconcile this with the very different role she made famous many years later, as Juliette in her husband's Juliette of the Spirit.

The third member of the trio is the young, handsome and, compared to Quinn, very vulnerable high-wire artist known simply as The Fool (Richard Basehart). His zest for life, humour and bravado wins the quiet love of Gelsomina -- and the fury of Zampano. The stage is set for Fellini's dramatic and moving, and utterly realistic denoument.

Yes, La Strada is tough viewing. It's also brilliant and compelling viewing. And memory of the character of Gelsomina, the quiet, mouse-like little animal who is almost - but not quite - a woman, will never leave you. Giuletta Masina's extraordinary acting is at the core of this movie -- it's a performance which absolutely dominates the screen.

  Video
Contract

I've seen La Strada twice on the cinema-screen, in what would have been regarded as near-optimal prints. But I cannot believe the print quality could have rivalled the sheer brilliance of the pristine transfer of this half-century old black-and-white film.

There is no evidence of print-wear at all. And the tonal range, from deep blacks to clear whites and perfect graduations of grey, is superb. This is archival-quality.

  Audio
Contract

For once, I have a dilemma about which soundtrack to recommend.

We have two language options, both in two-channel mono. There is the 'original' Italian language track, or you can choose the 'original' English-language track produced primarily for American consumption.

I have never heard this English track before -- early showings in my home-town of Melbourne, and in London, were in Italian with English subtitles. The English track features dubbing by both Anthony Quinn and Richard Basehart -- and the dubbed voice of Giuletta Masina is very close to her own, and free of an over-emphasised American accent.

Listen to both, and take your choice. If anything, the English track has a clearer, more direct presence. The Italian is a tad more distant. Its sound is excellent considering the era, but it seems to lack quite the same warmth and clarity.

  Extras
Contract

There are two Italian television documentaries on the husband-and-wife team of Federico Fellini and Giuletta Masina.

The Federico Fellini 'autobiography' runs for 55 minutes, and is really a sort of scrapbook of interviews done over the years centred around four key movies in his career -- La Strada, La Dolce Vita, Satyricon and Juliette of the Spirits. Despite its episodic quality and lack of a formal biographical structure, it does manage to convey a strong sense of person and character.

The Giuletta Masina feature, Power of a Smile, is similarly episodic, comprising interviews done over three decades. It reveals the actress to be a modest, warm person who confesses herself to be utterly bourgeoise. She testifies to the power of an actor to totally become something they're not -- though she claims to be able to find herself in every role. It's an intimate and ultimately totally charming biography, despite (like the Fellini program) its unstructured nature.

There is an optional Audio Commentary by Paul Harris, which is well worth the listen, with some great material about the film and its creators.

At one stage he reveals that, as a teenager, he could not understand why the character of Gelsomina wouldn't just get up and leave Zampano when finding herself part of such a brutal relationship. It was only years later that he realised both Gelsomina and Zampano were both trapped in the relationship. Good observation; a nice account of the way our own emotional experiences can change our viewpoint of such a powerful but yet subtle movie.

Finally, we have an average condition original American trailer for the movie, with the trailer falsely boasting it was made with a totally English-speaking cast, and Madman has included four teaser-trailers in good condition, for The Leopard, Tokyo Story, The Battle of Algiers and Down By Law.

  Overall  
Contract

This is part of cinematic history, and this Madman transfer presents it in finer condition than I could have ever thought possible.


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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "Tough, brilliant and compelling viewing with great acting at its core. Federico Fellini's first Oscar-winning movie is still outstanding drama."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DVD 655A
    • TV:
          Loewe Profil Plus 3272 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Denon AVR-3801
    • Speakers:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Centre Speaker:
          Neat Acoustics PETITE
    • Surrounds:
          Celestian (50W)
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
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