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on July 18, 2000
This masterpiece grabs you from the get-go and doesn't let up! Watch carefully, for the first two minutes of the opening scene represent the unfortunate recurring pattern of Cabiria's life: sheer happiness followed by tearful sorrow. Fellini's masterful approach to the story of Cabiria, a plain-Jane older prostitute in 1950's Rome, is not only artful but insightful. Surprisingly, you love this character from the moment you meet her and you can't help but wish her the best. You personally share in her disappointments, some greater than others, and Cabiria displays a remarkable level of resilience in the face of it all. Just when you start thinking that things may be going well for her, BOOM!, Fellini drops the bomb that blows everything to bits. The ending is one of such heartbreaking sadness that, I guarantee, will stay with you forever. Even weeks after first seeing this film, dear Cabiria is still on my mind and I wonder every so often what happened to her after the movie ended.
From a technical aspect, the Criterion release is outstanding. The visual restoration of this film is unbelievable. There is a feature that shows how the film was restored, and it's fascinating to see how the print went from dark and almost impossible to see to clear and bright. The subtitles have been newly translated to a more modern English. There is an optional English-dubbed soundtrack which is helpful for some scenes where there is lots of quick-fire dialog in which the subtitles have been pared down for clarity. There is also a video interview with Fellini's assistant Dominique Delouche, as well as an audio interview with Dino de Laurentiis. This newly-mastered print has a formerly missing segment titled "man with a sack" which, depending on which interviewee you believe, was deleted due to pressure from the Roman Catholic Church (Delouche) or for the sake of timing and continuity (de Laurentiis). My only problem with the restoration is that the sound, remastered from the original 1957 negative, is sometimes harsh and tinny. But, that's minor and easily forgiveable when compared to the beautiful visual restoration.
A classic that's well worth owning and that shows Fellini at his best.
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on February 18, 2001
A prostitute whose life is a veritable study in the resilience of the human spirit is the subject of "Nights of Cabiria," directed by Federico Fellini. Giulietta Masina stars as Cabiria, a gentle soul at heart who manages to maintain a positive outlook even in the face of adversity. Experiences that would leave those of lesser mettle jaded she is seemingly able to ward off and emerge from intact, with a guarded optimism that nevertheless leaves her open to whatever ills life may have in store for her next. But it is just that optimism and her sense of joy in the simple things that makes her so endearing. She is proud, for example, of the fact that she owns her own house, hovel though it may be. Though not one to be easily duped, she is vulnerable to sincere persistence, which has in the past rendered her victim to those who would take advantage of her, which is succinctly established in the opening scene of the film. Fellini's film is a study of how good may succumb to evil, and yet still triumph in the end (though open to subjective interpretation). It's something of an examination of endurance; how many times can one be knocked down before finally being unable to stand back up again. At the same time, however, it's an example of how purity can prevail against even the utmost cruelty. There is a humanity manifested in Cabiria that somehow gives absolution, not only to her lifestyle, but to those who would willingly do her harm. And it is in that very same absolution that we find a message of hope and redemption. As Cabiria, the diminutive Masina gives a performance that is nothing less than superlative, filled with nuance and expression. She has a face and a manner that convey an unbelievable depth of emotion, and Fellini captures every bit of it with his camera to perfection. It sometimes seems that she is a sprite merely masquerading as a woman; she has a light, almost ethereal presence, though at the same time she exhibits an earthy quality that gives her character such complexity, which removes any semblance of stereotype one may assign to her character as a "lady of the evening." It is a heartfelt, memorable portrayal that quite simply should have earned her an Oscar for Best Actress. Turning in a noteworthy performance, also, is Francois Perier, as Oscar D'Onofrio, the stranger who comes into Cabiria's life with an offer that ultimately seems too good to be true. The supporting cast includes Amedeo Nazzari (Alberto Lazzari), Aldo Silvani (The Hypnotist), Franca Marzi (Wanda), Dorian Gray (Jessy), Mario Passante (Cripple in the "Miracle" sequence), Pina Gualandri (Matilda), Leo Cattozzo (Man with the sack) and Polidor (The Monk). "Nights of Cabiria" is a film of extraordinary depth that is beautiful as well in it's humanity; Fellini has created images, both visually and emotionally, that are stunning and indelibly realized. Highlighted by the performance of Giulietta Masina, this is a film that begs to be embraced, one that will stay with you long after the last shadow has passed from the screen into darkness. In Cabiria, Fellini somehow touches something eternal, for there is a lasting sense of innate goodness about her that simply cannot be forgotten. For seekers after wisdom and truth, this is definitely a film that must not be missed.
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on January 6, 2000
This is just some information about the new "Nights of Cabiria" transfer. In one of the customer reviews by Fred Melden, it is mentioned that the "dubbing and subtitles were poor, often not even closely matching one another." Let's get one thing straight, the dub-track was included on the DVD as supplimental material... mostly to show how silly the 50's dubbed version must have looked it's original US release, not as the preferable way to view the film.
Secondly, the reason the subtitles don't match the dub-track is that the subtitles are A NEW AND IMPROVED TRANSLATION. They aren't meant to match; the subtitles are an improvement.
Lastly, the reason that some chapers are missing the English dub-track is that those particular scenes were cut from the film before its US release, menaing a dub-track was never done for them. These scenes are are available for the first time since the film's initial Cannes festival premier in 1956. This is a restored cut of the film.
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on February 21, 2005
I love Federico Fellini, but I dread his early works like La Strada because they are so sad. Poor Giulietta Masina, one of the greatest film actresses of all time, she always gets the short end of the stick and because the movie magic is so intense, our heart breaks right along with her.

Fellini is the Great Director Italian style. I don't mean he isn't the greatest director, better than Hitchcock, Welles, a modern like Scorcese. I'm looking at his work, have seen most of them, and I can't make up my mind. He might be the greatest that ever lived. His films in black and white, the Neo-Realism of Italian film after the war, the incredible original vision, the writing, and directing, it's as though Michelangelo came back as a director.

Masina is a prostitute, but her loves turn out to be pocketbook grabbers. Her physical well being is not high on her boyfriend's priority list. She's such a little women, frail, and in Nights she plays a tough, brawling, whimsical, and hopeless romantic. Her acting style is over the top, almost carnival character as she had played it in La Strada, but as Cabiria, she's older, but not necessarily wiser. The final revelation with French actor François Périer is so heart rendering because after an hour and a half of Cabiria's, laughter, trials, and disappointments, we identify with her completely. And then, in one last scene, the carnival returns with hope.

There is so much more to say about this film. You could write a book.
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on February 10, 2005
This early Fellini masterpiece stands among history's greatest films. Masina delivers a shattering performance as a tough-luck prostitute who refuses to let life let her down. This film tore me apart the first time I saw it (at the Quad Cinema on 12th Street in Manhattan, alone on a rainy afternoon sometime in the mid-90s) and subsequent viewings did subsequently tear me to shreds. It instills the most beautiful kind of melancholy; never has a film had such a tragic and uplifting ending. Cabiria is a model of blind hope, so rare in the human spirit. We need more people like her.
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on October 16, 2007
I've never in my life fallen so hard for a character in a film as I have for beautiful Cabiria. I saw the film for the first time yesterday and I am completely blown away. That lovely face ... if the last 45 seconds of Nights Of Cabiria don't affect you....then you should just stick with what they feed you at the multiplex. If you want something special in your life, that will probably stay with you forever, then see Nights Of Cabiria.
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on June 26, 2001
I've seen only one other Fellini film (8 1/2), which I enjoyed, but I wasn't sure I would like Nights of Cabiria. Seeing this movie for the first time turned out to be a delight. The story, quite simply is about Cabiria, a prostitute who lives on the outskirts of Rome and who wants to find a decent man to marry. The pleasure of seeing this movie is about getting to know Cabiria, laughing at her misfortunes, seeing her fumble through bizarre predicaments, feeling her sorrow when she's mistreated, watching her deal with life on its terms. Aside from Giulietta Masina, there are many other reasons to see this movie. The parade of improbable faces, the opulent locations in and around Rome, the wonderful variety of music, and the amazingingly artistic quality of every shot that Fellini directs. This is one of the rare films which should be considered a work of art. Finally, I can't say enough about the Criterion Collection DVD's. Nights of Cabiria has been restored and re-mastered for this DVD and the results (as demonstrated on the disc) are incomparable. If you can, see this edition.
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on April 15, 1999
Fellini and his wife, Giulietta Masina have made a masterpiece.The plot at first looks like the standard prostitute-with-the-heart-of-gold.But to describe it in that way would be like saying the Grand Canyon is a large ditch.What it is really about is a vision of the hope and courage which all of us know is present in us but which we seldom see. See this film, even if getting a copy is difficult!You will be rewarded with an experience transcending the screen. The last five minutes of the film, where Masina, in despair after a brutal and degrading attack, walks disconsolate through sun-dappled fields, and then, looking around at the field, the sun, the air of life itself, holds up her head and with strenght and courage goes on, is one of the most vital moments ever put on film. I saw this movie when it was first made, decades ago, yet it is with me always.Its message unbelievably beautiful still.ENe
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on March 21, 2004
Quality counts with the folks at The Criterion Collection, not just technically but in content too. This is one of Fellini's most fully realized films and the nostalgia and unflinching gaze that pervades all his best work is present in every frame. Everyone mentions Giulietta Masina's performance and there's a reason for that. She is brilliant. One of the most heart wrenching performances ever put on film. The DVD includes the "Man with the Sack" sequence that producer Dino de Laurentiis (more recently the production powerhouse behind the Hannibal Lecter franchise) excised from the original release. One can understand why a producer would want to trim it out - but its inclusion here makes the film seem larger somehow and Criterion should be applauded for putting it back in. This DVD is a vital part of your Fellini DVD Collection should you be assembling one. And you are, aren't you?
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on February 23, 2015
Nights of Cabiria (1957) was the last in what Federico Fellini expert Peter Bondanella calls his `Trilogy of salvation or grace', the other two being La Strada (1954) and Il Bidone (1955). In all three films characters undergo a huge cyclical journey through life where they end up where they started having learned something important on the way. Fellini was ambivalent about organized religion and got into hot water with the Catholic Church on more than one occasion, but the use of the word 'salvation' or `grace' implies some kind of religious program and Fellini is on record as saying Jesus Christ was "the greatest person in the history of the human race" and that "he continues to live on in anyone who sacrifices himself for his neighbor." Indeed he saw all his early films turn on this idea, especially the ones involving his wife Giulietta Masina - "a little creature who wants to love and who lives for love." Please note this is a thematic review and so contains spoilers.

Nights of Cabiria is a transitional work in Fellini's career. It features another picaresque tale of a character who goes on a cyclical emotional journey, but it also looks forward, anticipating much of La dolce vita (1959) in its party scenes and its visit to a religious sanctuary. We briefly met the Roman prostitute Cabiria towards the end of The White Sheik (1952). Fellini combines her with another prostitute whom he met while shooting Il Bidone to make the Cabiria of this film. Cabiria is no clichéd `tart with a heart' victim. Rather, she is a tough cookie who owns her own house, has a bank account and is fiercely proud of her independence. Unfortunately she has a soft heart and her weakness for love leaves her wide open for exploitation. But we know as hard as she falls, she will always be able to pick herself up and go again. Cabiria is a much more complex character than Gelsomina (and for me even more sympathetic), but Giulietta Masina captures all her contradictions in a wonderfully subtle performance, alternately vivacious and hard-nosed and then vulnerable and adorable to make for one of Fellini's most memorable characters. It is no exaggeration to say that Masina makes this film.

In its narrative structure the film carries on Fellini's obsession in this trilogy with the number 5. Remember Zampanò repeated his ridiculous strong man act 5 times in La Strada and Augusto performs 5 swindles in the course of Il Bidone. Nights of Cabiria consists of 5 episodes taken out of Cabiria's life which are separated by linking passages of her at her station at the Passeggiata Archeologica in a poor area of Rome. Each episode starts with the promise of hope for escape to a new respectable life, but each one ends in bitter disappointment. The first sees Cabiria in love running by the Tiber with her boyfriend Giorgio in a clichéd scene of romance, only to have her purse snatched and then pushed into the river by him. A non-swimmer, she almost drowns. The second sees her picked up by a famous movie star (Amedeo Nazzari) outside the Kit Kat Club. She's taken to the Piccadilly Club where we are treated to an exotic echt-La dolce vita floor show before being taken back to the actor's posh casa. Preparing herself for a night of sexual luxuriance, her hopes are dashed by the arrival of the actor's girlfriend and she has to listen to them fornicate all night long from her hiding place inside the bathroom. She gets paid the following morning, but her pride has been wounded, emphasized by her gawky Chaplin-esque dress and her cheap umbrella contrasting with the opulence of the actor's milieu.

The third episode combines two ways that charity can alleviate and perhaps lift poor people out of their deprivation. The Catholic Church didn't like the first way featuring a `man with a sack' journeying around rough areas of Rome dispensing gifts of clothes and food to the needy. Cabiria is fascinated by the man's unexplained generosity and follows him, eventually meeting an old prostitute colleague who is now living in a cave. This could also be Cabiria's fate if she doesn't change her life. Cabiria is driven back to the city center and wants to know the man more, but her shame prevents her. This is quickly followed by a trip to the Divino Amore, a popular sanctuary on Via Ardeatina where it's said the Virgin Mary saved a man from a pack of wild dogs in the 14th century. Cabiria is there together with a group of prostitute colleagues and the crippled father of one of the pimps. They have all come hoping for salvation and a hand-out. Cabiria is at first cynical, but then gets drawn in and is moved by the religious ceremony. The crippled father is sure he has been cured and asks to be released by his helpers, to which he falls flat on his face. Part one of the film ends here. In Italy there would have been an interval and one reason why the Catholic Church had the `man with a sack' sequence removed is that the successful lay charity is contrasted strongly with the `failure' of the charity administered by the Church. In terms of the film however, Cabiria has her hopes raised only to see them dashed again and as she watches a procession of priests walk off she asks them sarcastically if they are looking for snails.

The fourth episode sees Cabiria take in a trademark-Fellini variety show wherein she is put under hypnosis by a magician and reveals unknowingly the vulnerable recesses of her heart - that she wants to marry someone named `Oscar'. Unfortunately for her she also reveals she owns a house and has a bank account. Not knowing what she has said, she is embarrassed when freed of her trance by the laughter of all. Again she is kicked in the teeth. The fifth and last episode is the longest and starts immediately after she leaves the show. A figment from Cabiria's psyche calling himself `Oscar' (François Périer) introduces himself and begins a long courtship. By now we know the structure of the narrative and simply wait for the inevitable to happen. Eventually Cabiria sells up her house and takes all her money with her to live with Oscar in a village where she has been promised work as a sales clerk. Just like Giorgio at the film's outset Oscar wears sunglasses (Fellini code for untrustworthiness), escorts her to a country place by water and then snatches her bag with everything she has in the entire world. The film has come full circle and Cabiria is broken. And yet all is not lost. In one of Fellini's most famous scenes she is magically caught up in a group of young people dancing and singing down a road. The music is a paraphrase of the music earlier heard at the Divino Amore and as she smiles looking directly at the camera inviting us to join in the procession of life, we know that life goes on and Cabiria will live again. Redemption is received and the procession moves on.

As with La Strada it may seem that religion plays a large part in this film's structure. The visit to the Divino Amore is exceptionally moving and is more than just a dry run for a similar (much more lavish) scene in La dolce vita. Cabiria's need to believe is firmly emphasized and the scene dominates the film, especially with the music returning at the end and the later scene on the road where she meets a priest who urges her to marry and raise children, to live `in God's grace'. She later goes to the monastery to give her confession (such is the law in Italy before anyone marries) and no doubt her search for a way to live `in God's grace' is a possible reading of the film. But also as with La Strada, to reduce the film to just one meaning denies its richness. In any case certain things speak against a Christian interpretation. The contrast between lay charity and Church charity is surely an attack on organized religion (the prior scene has only recently been put back in to the film) and Cabiria's pithy rejoinders to the priests (made very realistic by an Italian script spiced up by street argot researched by Pier Paolo Pasolini for this film) tells its own story. Also, the `redemption' she receives at the end is as uncertain as that received by both Zampanò and Augusto. In this trilogy the lessons the main characters learn express the secular view of people simply surviving life, of human existence transcending all obstacles with the over-riding theme of love dominating everything. Of course, this love could be both sacred and secular. The name of the sanctuary Cabiria visits (Divino Amore) gives this main theme away and Cabiria's capacity for love constitutes both her main strength and her biggest weakness. Such is the paradox at the center of life and Fellini gives it extraordinary clarity through the incredibly sensitive performance of his wife. This film is less celebrated than La Strada despite picking up awards in Venice and in Hollywood, but it is undoubtedly on the same level. Another Fellini masterpiece, it's one of his 3 or 4 greatest achievements.

Potential buyers should be aware that this film is available in a 3 DVD boxed set from Optimum World/Studio Canal which also includes The White Sheik and La Strada. I picked mine up for just ₤9 making it an outstanding bargain. The transfer quality of all three films is excellent, pristine b/w pictures and clear sound. Early Fellini is unmissable for lovers of cinema and buying this set is a no-brainer even if you already have La Strada and want to have the other two.
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