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The Absence of God in “Le notti di Cabiria”

I remember reading on the back of the Nights of Cabiria DVD case, “features the never-before-seen seven-minute ‘man with a sack’ sequence.” I watched a special feature on the sequence after I watched the film but still couldn’t fully understand why the censors made Fellini cut the sequence. I knew that it upset the Catholic Church but still, why? After a few viewings my question was answered.

When Cabiria and the others are discussing to go see the Madonna, the group of Catholic pilgrims pass by. The way the lights

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shines on the group makes them look like they are a phantom, something unattainable and intangible to Cabiria. She feels drawn to them and walks towards the street. She stops and falls under a streak of light; but this light shows Cabiria’s realness. She is a human person living in the difficult conditions of post-WWII Italy and, more importantly, struggling to find happiness and love. This shot is stark, sharp, and concrete.  She continues to walk behind them when their chanting is dominated by the hum of a truck, Cabiria’s next costumer. This sets the basis for what is to come in the next few scenes.

I will begin with Cabiria’s travel to the shrine. I focus on Cabiria because of all the people in her group, she is the one who takes the visit to the Madonna solemnly.  One could argue Wanda as well but, to me, Cabiria is the only one. In The Story of Film, Mark Cousins argues that “Nights of Cabiria reflect[s] a society in which religion has disappeared and only its kitsch images remain” (249). When Cabiria and the others arrive at the shrine, it’s a mad-house or, if I may, a circus. There are numerous stalls selling Catholic trinkets, people walking every which way, the sound of people’s chanting and bells overlapping, elaborate candle setups, people cramming to get into the shrine.It seems many of the workers are there to capitalize on the Madonna; and it only gets worse. As Cabiria scans the walls, there are numerous lighted signs and candles in “honor” of the Madonna;

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crutches to show that the Madonna did have mercy on them. However, the way Fellini shoots it makes it seem like it’s a commercial attraction rather than something holy. As they climb up the steps, people scream and shout to the Madonna to make them well or to help them. They throw their arms in the air, in a sense, forgetting themselves. Cabiria, in contrast, does not. Cabiria is the only one wearing a white, plain outfit, a color that is synonymous with holiness and purity. Her expression is sincere and her wide eyes says much more than all the shouts in the room. When Cabiria does say something, it is not exaggerated or head turning, but rather honest and quiet. Even her request to the Madonna, “Help me change my life,” is much more humble than some of the other requests like the uncle who asks to walk again. Once they leave the Madonna, Cabiria becomes frustrated and angry that the Madonna has not helped any of them. The Madonna, and therefore God, is not there for the people. All the people have now are the objects and images which fuel the faith.

Now for the man with a sack sequence. The night Cabiria sees the traveling Catholics, she receives a costumer. Afterwards, she walks home and stumbles upon a man with a sack. However, this time, that haunting light does not hit him. Rather it shines above him, thus he is real. As NC3she follows him, she sees he gives poor people without homes food and other items that they need to live. He is kind but his expression does not reveal much else of his personality. After reviewing this scene again, I can understand why they made Fellini cut this sequence. When they first meet, the man with a sack shines his light directly onto Cabiria, seeing her as she is and not forcing her to catch up with him. As she talks with him, she is more spiritually fulfilled than she is when she goes to pray to the Madonna. The man with a sack is tangible, real, and someone she can talk to. The more Cabiria talks to him, the more we learn about Cabiria’s early life. She says that her  name is Maria Ceccarelli and that her mother and father died when she was young. Cabiria takes down her defenses and shows a side that we have not seen previously. Without this sequence, Fellini is just slamming the Catholic faith. However with it, he is saying that it is everyday people take it upon themselves and help others by giving them what they need, whether it be faith, confidence, or everyday necessities. Probably not something they want to hear.

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Binge Watching and Alain Delon Movies: A Love Story

Summertime is a time to binge watch tv shows on Netflix and catch up on one’s movie watching. Last week, I decided to banish the various preoccupations keeping me from my one true love (movies) and returned to a rigorous schedule of film consumption. And a bit of crack tv watching.

Le Samouraï (1967)

After realizing that I hadn’t been watching movies regularly for quite awhile (and had been watching far too much Gossip Girl), I decided it was time to begin anew. I’ve seen a disappointingly small amount of foreign films, so I took to twitter and asked the lovely people there for recommendations. Le Samouraï was one of the fifty or more recs I got in return–thanks Monica!
Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 film follows French assassin Jef Costello (Alain Delon), whose latest job doesn’t go as smoothly as it should have: Jef is pulled into the police station for questioning, leading to various complications that endanger his safety (naturally, Jef’s boss isn’t happy when he is questioned by the police). Le Samourai is thrilling and iconic. I loved it a whole lot, and also ended up falling in love with Alain Delon, who is memorably cool as the killer in the beige raincoat and hat.


Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Nights of Cabiria, directed by Federico Fellini and starring Giulietta Masina, was recommended to me by the lovely Miranda, who cherishes this film (as I cherish her). Anyway, it was a really great recommendation, because I absolutely loved it.
Cabiria (Masina) is a spunky prostitute who endures misfortune after misfortune, but manages to keep her head up in spite of being screwed over by a series of men. Played beautifully by Giulietta Masina, Cabiria is lovable and easy to feel sympathetic for as she endures humiliation and heartbreak, yet remains resilient. In spite of the many wrongs inflicted upon her, Cabiria ends the film with a smile.

Gossip Girl
I didn’t anticipate getting so thoroughly sucked into this show, but then, what’s summer without a show to binge watch? I started watching Gossip Girl  by accident when I happened to be in the room while my twelve-year-old sister was watching it, and though I poked fun at its melodrama and generally aggravating characters, I found myself going back to watch the show from the beginning.
Set in the landscape of Upper East Side New York City, Gossip Girl is pretty much a show about secrets and backstabbers and a host of characters who seem to have nothing better to do than tear each other down. Unhealthy friendships, relationships, and families abound in this sometimes laughable series. And yet, it’s addicting as hell, and from time to time illustrates a touch of humanity that, speaking completely honestly, has brought tears to my eyes more than a few times. Twisted webs of complicated drama, various takedowns and schemes, a couple of surprisingly dynamic characters that show depth on occasion (Blair Waldorf is my personal favorite), and some kind of a party every episode make this show extremely entertaining and extremely addicting. You know you love me xoxo.


This Is The End (2013)
I’d be lying to myself and everyone else if I tried to hide my genuine enjoyment of this movie. I went into it thinking it was going to be pretty stupid, but This is the End is brilliantly funny, I’m pretty sure I was in hysterics for at least 75% of it. Everyone else in the theater seemed to be having a great time too. Except for the middle-aged couple sitting in front of me and Lauren who got up and left twenty minutes in. This Is the End is probably not for everyone, but I enjoyed it’s brand of crass-yet-well-written, laugh-out-loud-inducing humor. Stars like Jay Baruchel, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and James Franco play versions of themselves, trapped at James Franco’s house while the world is engulfed in hellfire. Shenanigans and casualties ensue. Go see it if you like to laugh.

La Piscine (1969)
Like the title might suggest, Jacques Deray’s drama centers around a swimming pool. The significance of this fact is that stars Alain Delon and Romy Schneider spend most of the movie in their swimsuits (A++). Oh yeah, and someone gets drowned in said swimming pool at a lavish villa. When lovers Jean-Paul and Marianne (real life ex-lovers Alain Delon and Romy Schneider) are paid a visit by Marianne’s former lover Harry (Maurice Ronet) and his teenage daughter Penelope (Jane Birkin), a love rhombus ensues, leading to drama and tension that explodes in the second half of the film when murder happens. This movie is mostly worth watching for Alain and Romy.