Film historian Russell Merritt has been introducing films, lecturing, and serving as an occasional guest curator at BAMPFA for more than thirty years.
Giulietta Masina, Anthony Quinn, Richard Basehart, Aldo Silvani,
It’s hard to think of La strada apart from its reputation as a humanist classic, what Vincent Canby called “a fable of spiritual redemption,” in which Giulietta Masina’s clownish soul Gelsomina is victimized by Anthony Quinn’s brutish Zampanò and they call it a traveling sideshow. But that’s a good reason to see it again. Behind Masina’s tragicomic masquerade are some of the most chillingly evocative landscapes in Italian cinema (the film after all is named for its setting), reminders that Fellini used only the tools of reality to create a fable out of time, out of place. Among the international cast, Quinn gets the kudos (it is considered his finest performance), but the American actor Richard Basehart is quizzical and magnetic as The Fool, who appears to Gelsomina as out of a dream (eating spaghetti on a high wire) to give words to the sense, already growing in her, that she means something.