Westchester Italian FIlm Festival

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1:00pm La Strada

Acclaimed Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini drew on his own circus background for the 1954 classic La Strada. Set in a seedy travelling carnival, this symbolism-laden drama revolves around brutish strongman Zampano (Anthony Quinn), his simple and servile girlfriend Gelsomina (Giulietta Masina, Fellini‘s wife), and clown/aerialist Matto (Richard Basehart). Appalled at Zampano’s insensitive treatment of Gelsomina, the gentle-natured Matto invites her to run off with him; but Gelsomina, like a faithful pet, refuses to leave the strong man’s side. Eventually Zampano’s volcanic temper erupts once too often, leading to tragic consequences. Written by Fellini and Tullio Pinelli and scored by Nino Rota, La Strada was the winner of the first official Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, awarded in 1956.

3:00pm Nights of Cabiria

Nights of Cabiria opens with Cabiria (Giulietta Masina) and her boyfriend playfully embracing by the seaside — and then he shoves her into the water and steals her purse. Cabiria is revived by some local boys and runs off by herself, shouting. What follows is a series of similarly humiliating episodes, in which the defiantly positive prostitute Cabiria is hurt, but never broken. She gets picked up by movie star Alberto Lazzati (Amedeo Nazzari, doing a self-parody) and taken to his palatial estate. However, his mistress shows up and Cabiria gets locked in the bathroom all night with the dog. She then joins her fellow prostitutes for a blessing from the Virgin Mary, and ends up getting drunk and wandering into a local show, where the hypnotist invites her to join him on-stage. The audience heckles her, and she toughly reminds them of her independence and that she owns her own house. There she meets Oscar (François Perier), an accountant who romantically pursues her. Despite the warnings of her fellow prostitute friend, Wanda (Franca Marzi), she prepares to sell all her belongings and accept Oscar’s proposal of marriage. After being ruthlessly taken advantage of once again, Cabiria walks off alone with a smirk of hope.

5:30pm 8 1/2

Fresh off of the international success of La Dolce Vita, master director Federico Fellini moved into the realm of self-reflexive autobiography with what is widely believed to be his finest and most personal work. Marcello Mastroianni delivers a brilliant performance as Fellini’s alter ego Guido Anselmi, a film director overwhelmed by the large-scale production he has undertaken. He finds himself harangued by producers, his wife, and his mistress while he struggles to find the inspiration to finish his film. The stress plunges Guido into an interior world where fantasy and memory impinge on reality. Fellini jumbles narrative logic by freely cutting from flashbacks to dream sequences to the present until it becomes impossible to pry them apart, creating both a psychological portrait of Guido’s interior world and the surrealistic, circus-like exterior world that came to be known as “Felliniesque.” 8 1/2 won an Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, as well as the grand prize at the Moscow Film Festival, and was one of the most influential and commercially successful European art movies of the 1960s, inspiring such later films as Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz (1979), Woody Allen‘s Stardust Memories (1980), and even Lucio Fulci‘s Italian splatter film Un Gatto nel Cervello (1990).

8:00pm La Dolce Vita

In one of the most widely seen and acclaimed European movies of the 1960s, Federico Fellini featured Marcello Mastrioanni as gossip columnist Marcello Rubini. Having left his dreary provincial existence behind, Marcello wanders through an ultra-modern, ultra-sophisticated, ultra-decadent Rome. He yearns to write seriously, but his inconsequential newspaper pieces bring in more money, and he’s too lazy to argue with this setup. He attaches himself to a bored socialite (Anouk Aimée), whose search for thrills brings them in contact with a bisexual prostitute. The next day, Marcello juggles a personal tragedy (the attempted suicide of his mistress (Yvonne Furneaux)) with the demands of his profession (an interview with none-too-deep film star Anita Ekberg). Throughout his adventures, Marcello’s dreams, fantasies, and nightmares are mirrored by the hedonism around him. With a shrug, he concludes that, while his lifestyle is shallow and ultimately pointless, there’s nothing he can do to change it and so he might as well enjoy it. Fellini‘s hallucinatory, circus-like depictions of modern life first earned the adjective “Felliniesque” in this celebrated movie, which also traded on the idea of Rome as a hotbed of sex and decadence. A huge worldwide success, La Dolce Vita won several awards, including a New York Film Critics CIrcle award for Best Foreign Film and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.