Thursday, October 14, 2010

ZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, Or La Strada (1954)

Have you ever driven on Interstate 77 from Charlotte, NC to Columbia, SC? There is a seemingly forever long stretch of road that barely counts as interstate and contains absolutely not a damned thing. Nothing. Nada. Zip. An exit pops up every now and then to remind you that there must be people around there somewhere but there is no other sign of life. Then suddenly you see an absurd median "landscaping" situation involving the what might be the ugliest state tree ever and you're back to something resembling civilization.

The entire time I was watching La Strada, I was waiting for that Palmetto-treed median. First, it was because I know Athelas doesn't want to re-watch the film. I failed to ask her why so I assumed something gross happened. Second, because halfway through the movie I realized that not only was nothing gross going to happen but nothing at all was going to happen. The civilization-signaling landscaping was only found in the film ending--not the ending but the actual cessation of the film.

During the film I learned a few interesting tid-bits from imdb. The leading lady was married to Fellini (the director of this snooze) and was supposedly his muse--yawn. Anthony Quinn (the leading man) was a boxer, an apprentice to Frank Lloyd Wright (who supported his move to acting), and was married to Cecile B. DeMille's daughter but Quinn suspected Papa DeMille wasn't actually pleased with the whole Mexican thing. But because of the whole Mexican thing, he couldn't be drafted into the war and that helped his career immensely because he was actually given opportunities. Yep. I was able to read imdb on my phone while watching a movie with subtitles without missing a thing. And, while I am so-so in Italian, I don't know enough to not read the subtitles. Another funny fact: this film played at the New Beverly the night after I watched it. You can't imagine how pleased I am that I failed to know that beforehand lest I decided a theater viewing in order.

So, why does 1001 Movies want us to watch this? Well, first I'm confused by this statement "Although it is shot on location, it could take place in the present day or it could be 100 years ago." I do agree that, if in color and high-waisted pants on men were ignored, it might feasibly look almost sort of contemporary in a we assume poor people in other countries dress like stereotypical peasants way but what the hell does being shot on location have to do with that? A soundstage could achieve the same effect easily as could the California desert. Anyway, moving on. Apparently, we're supposed to love this film because Fellini takes the archetypal characters and makes them complex while leaving them in their archetypes. Supposedly this is Fellini's "accessible" and "well-loved" film and, as such, "[s]nobs and sophisticates should not hold that against this complex and moving film . . . which continues to provide new insights and ideas on each subsequent viewing." Hmph. Yes, this film is "accessible" if by "accessible" you mean dumbed-down to the point of no return. The archetypal characters remain solely simple archetypes and as such refuse to allow the audience to care. There is no complexity--the supposed "complexity" is already built into the archetypes and is therefore simplicity. Gelsomina's fate does not concern me. I don't flinch when Zampano yells at her. Zampano's supposed emotional involvement falls flat and fake. There is no insight or idea to be had from the film that I could find--and I had a lot of time to try to find one. The characters of the film--which is all there is because the plot is as empty as that stretch of interstate--are written so flatly that there is no interest garnered from the viewer.

So, in other words, I've not a damned clue why this was included other than it's the "accessible" Fellini and the list likes a little Fellini (6 other films by him on the list).


  1. And was it just me, or did you grow to actively hate all the characters? Maybe it was my attempt to get some sort of emotional involvement going, but they were all so cartoonish that I ended up despising every single one of them.

  2. Oh, no, it's not just you. The girl annoyed me from moment one. That faux battiness really got on my nerves because she clearly was savvy in some ways. And, sorry, staying with a man because no one else will is nonsense and asking to be left on the side of the road. *I* would have left her on the side of the road. And the strong man. Sigh. He wasn't even good at being a bully and I don't buy for one minute it's because he really cared for or loved her. And the Fool's voice grated me--but at that point I was so over the whole thing, I would have been mad at Winnie the Pooh.

    Oh! And what was with the freaky child at the house with the wedding?!

  3. And the strong man wasn't even all that strong. Fail all around.

    I don't remember a freaky child! I wish the child had become evil and gone on a murdering spree. There are so many ways that this movie could have been better than it actually was.

  4. Nope not that strong at all. Maybe if he'd tossed around that stupid motorcycle or something.

    There was a freaky child at the house with the wedding. The kids get the woman to go upstairs to a closed-off room where there is a kid in a bed for some unknown reason and then a nun comes and shoos them away.