Nights of Cabiria

NightsSometimes a film performance is so perfect that you take the character home and make her part of your life. Giulietta Masina isn’t the kind of person I’d ordinarily invite over for dinner. A low-class prostitute with quite a mouth on her, you wouldn’t guess that she’s a sweetheart underneath.

But look at how much fun she’s having in the posh nightclub, doing the mambo with the self-absorbed actor who picked her up after a snit with his girlfriend. “People want to watch her unrehearsed reaction to the world,” said one commentator on the Criterion DVD. Others have compared her—aptly—to Charlie Chaplin. The closing scene of “Nights of Cabiria” strikes the same chord as the end of “City Lights.”

Masina was a comic genius who moved with grace, but wasn’t too proud to take a pratfall. She could make you laugh one moment, break your heart the next. Her performance opposite Anthony Quinn in “La Strada” was so devastating I haven’t had the courage to watch that film again.

This one I could watch a hundred times.

7 thoughts on “Nights of Cabiria

  1. Lisa, thanks for posting this! It looks like a great movie. I’ve owned the “Nights of Cabiria” Criterion edition for quite some time and haven’t even opened it yet. You may be sure that I’ll be watching this one tonight!


  2. That was a truly great movie, one of the best I’ve seen. Masina’s face is so expressive! There were three or four scenes that will stay with me forever. I hated that creep Oscar; how he resisted sweeping her up in his arms is totally beyond me!


      1. That was a great scene, to be sure, but the scene that sticks with me the most is where she is hypnotized onstage and backlit by the projector. Her little tiara of flowers is so angelic, like a halo, and she has that beatific smile on her face. I think I fell in love with her a little bit. This is a movie I’ll be watching again and again and again.


  3. Incredible film – probably Fellini’s most emotionally engaging. It has the force of neo-realism with the slight hint of the surrealist turn to come. But Fellini would have been nothing without the talents of his brilliant wife, Giulietta. She is heartbreaking in this film.


    1. I agree completely. The little boy in “The Bicycle Thief” (which I’m about to review) also broke my heart when he lost faith in his father, but Cabiria rises above it and that’s what keeps me coming back to this one, time and time again.


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