1954, TSDPT Rank #52
Fellini has two distinct periods in his filmography - the early neorealist films, and the later autobiographical and/or dreamlike films. La Strada is very much a bridge between these two periods, as well as prime Fellini. There's a sense of magic that hangs over this film, and it's really the ultimate tragicomedy. Fellini's wife, Giuletta Masina, plays an amazing role as the Italian girl who gets sold to a brutish traveling strongman, who uses her for his act, abuses her and disregards her until it's too late. Really, the "partnership" cycle they continually go through probably would have continued indefinitely if it had not been for the appearance of The Fool, the strongman's longtime rival, whose less serious approach to life will undoubtedly prove fatal. What makes Masina's performance so fascinating and central to the movie though, are her great childlike facial expressions, indelible pathos, and the way she always leaves the audience wondering how much her character understands about her feelings or the way other people act. On a side note, if you watch Martin Scorsese's introduction from the Criterion Collection DVD, you'll get some insight into what a huge influence this film in particular was on his work, and much the characters in all of his movies are drawn in some way from the three central characters here. Definitely recommended, a must-watch on a variety of levels.