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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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Miranda’s 5 Feel Better Films

Have you ever had those days where you’re in the worst funk but you have no idea why? Or the days that just about everything goes wrong? Expect you don’t know what to do to cheer yourself up? I have had many of those days and I’ve discovered the certain soundtracks/artists and films that help put a smile on my face or just help me out of that funk. I decided it would be fun to create a post of the 5 films that I love to put on whenever I’m ~down in the dumps~ Perhaps you’ll find that some of these films can help your bad day become better!

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1) The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Yes, this movie is absolutely absurd, ridiculous, idiotic, random, nonsensical, etc. But that’s just why I love it, especially on these sort of days. It’s impossible to think about anything else going on in real life because you’re wondering just what the heck is even going on. You’ll find yourself laughing, perhaps even more so if you have the Midnight Experience option on and read the call-backs. Plus it’s impossible not to like these songs; seriously, just admit it now. We’ve all sang along to at least one song or have a favorite (mine being “Over at the Frankenstein Place”). So the soundtrack is also a great fix as well. I don’t care what anyone says; it’s the perfect medicine for a crappy day.

*Oh, and Tim Curry. That’s all.

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2) Some Like it Hot

Yeah, you get Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in drag, Marilyn Monroe, and a Billy Wilder script and direction, you’ve got a fabulously and ridiculously funny film. Before I watched this movie, I expected it to be overrated because so many people loved it (think Breakfast at Tiffany’s). Expect I forgot that just about any Billy Wilder film is flawless. This one is no exception. After I watched it, it quickly became one of my favorite films. I’ve watched it so many times that unfortunately I’ve picked up on almost all the jokes :'( But nonetheless it’s great for these sort of days because Wilder’s jokes never get old. This is one of the films I recommend to newbies to Old Hollywood films because it’s still hysterical. So if you haven’t seen it, then it might be best to save this film for one of those days :)

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3) Harvey

It’s impossible to not be charmed by Jimmy Stewart’s Elwood P. Dowd and, of course, his best friend Harvey, the six foot, three and one half inch tall invisible rabbit. For me, Stewart plays his character so beautifully that you’re captivated by Elwood and that could be enough. But his sister is deeply concerned about Elwood and wants to put him in an institution. The film is unlike anything else and has the power to make you forget reality and focus into the world of Elwood and Harvey. And the question is: is Harvey real?

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4) Nights of Cabiria

If you know me, you know that right after Annie Hall my favorite film is Nights of Cabiria. Part of the reason is because of Cabiria. Giulietta Masina gave one of the greatest performances of all film history in that role. She brings her to life; there is no fake, Hollywood setup. Instead, she takes the neo-realist era approach and makes Cabiria one of the most genuine and real characters of cinema. Cabiria has been wounded in the past but still manages to keep going through. She puts on a tough facade so she doesn’t get hurt but she is still very naïve. It is impossible to not like Cabiria. While at the beginning of the film you might think her rude or ungrateful, as the film gradually unfolds you see why the way she is and you begin to understand. And if you have no feelings towards the end then I don’t know what to say. But anyways, Cabiria is stubborn, spunky, determined, her own and I absolutely love her. And that’s why I watch Cabiria. She’s like a best friend to me, and I mean, who doesn’t need his or her best friend on a bad day.

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5) You Can’t Take It With You

This was one of the first Old Hollywood films I watched and I loved it to pieces. I laughed throughout the entire time, I shipped Jean and Jimmy, I wanted to be a part of Jean’s family; the whole deal. And I just realized that it was a Capra film, but that shouldn’t surprise me. I love it for these days because it gives me hope and sends the message to do what you love to do and what you want to do. Have fun. Don’t be quick to judge others. Make time for your family. And most importantly, be yourself. Take advantage of the options given to you and live your life the way you want to live it, not how others say you should. I don’t think it can be more optimistic than that :)


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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.