Nights of Cabiria (Le notti di Cabiria)

Nights of Cabiria

Madonna, Madonna, help me to change my life.

I figured since I only had one more Fellini film to take care of, I’d get it out of the way. Nights of Cabiria is probably the film that lands smack dab in the middle of Fellini’s first and second periods of filmmaking, and if you look closely, you can see the influences from both sides. Still, this Fellini work has much more of a standard plot than La Dolce Vita or Amarcord, and you’ll be thankful for that if and/or when you watch it.

It was nice to see a Fellini film with a bit more of a plot, though the vignette style that would domineer his later works can be seen in genesis here. Really, I felt I was watching the transition film from Fellini’s early neorealism to his second phase of work, and indeed this may be the counterweight between the two eras. Here, Fellini’s frequent muse and personal companion Giulietta Masina gives a commanding performance as the prostitute Cabiria; fierce and strong-willed, nearly the opposite of her demure waifness in La Strada. I enjoyed watching Cabiria going about her life much more than I did Mastroianni’s journalist in La Dolce Vita or even his director in 8 1/2; it just felt more like a real plot than just meandering around through situations, even though that’s still essentially what Nights of Cabiria did. It just did it better and more coherently, in my opinion, even with all the standard Fellini touches present.

Federico Fellini may be one of the most revered directors in all of cinema, but my response to most of his work was lukewarm at best. 8 1/2 was the standout for me, but all of his other works in the list were merely okay for me in entertainment value. Nights of Cabiria was much more refreshing and active, and I’m glad happenstance saved this film as the last one for me to watch. Of all of Fellini’s films, this is the one I feel I could recommend to the widest audience.

Arbitrary Rating: 9/10

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