Review: Nights of Cabiria

DVD: Nights of Cabiria (1957)

Directed by Federico Fellini and starring his wife and past star of La Strada, Giulietta Masina, Nights of Cabiria is a heartbeeaking story about a prostitute in Rome who searches for true love in vain. Winning the 1957 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, this was the second straight year Italy and Fellini won this Academy Award, having won for 1956’smagnificent  La Strada.

Cabiria (Masina) is standing on a river bank with her current boyfriend/pimp Giorgio (Franco Fabrizi). Suddenly he pushes her into the river and steals her purse which is full of money. She of course can’t swim and nearly drowns, but is rescued by a group of young boys, and in spite of just saving her life, she treats them with disdain and starts looking for Giorgio. But it appears he really was only after her money.

Cabiria then witnesses a fight between famous movie star, Alberto Lazzari  (a beautifully self obsorbed Amedeo Nazzari) and his girlfriend, as she dumps him. The differences in appearance between the glamorous tall model girlfriend, in a mink coat and jewels, and the dishevelled, wet prostitute are stark. He takes Cabiria home, but she’s stuffed into the toilet just before they have sex, because his ex comes back.

She (this is an Italian film and therefore Catholic), prays for a good, different life, while her prostitute friends mock the thought of God giving deliverance. And so the story continues, with Masina’s huge, always sad eyes looking pleadingly at the audience. Her pain and the way she continually hopes that someone will love her really is heartbreaking.

She meets Oscar (François Périer) and after several suspicious meetings she falls passionately in love with him and they plan to marry. Cabiria sells her home and takes out all her money from the bank. After they are married, she offers him all the money, but he declines. But then he takes her for a walk on a cliff and yes, you guessed it, Oscar intends to push her over the cliff and steal her money. She throws her purse at his feet, sobbing as he takes the money and he too, abandons her.

This story might sound familiar to those of you who are into Musicals, as Bob Fosse took this story and turned it into ‘Sweet Charity’.

Review by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Umbrella Entertainment.