Monday, November 9, 2009

Let's Go to the Movies!: Nights of Cabiria

Not since Bridget Jones or the male lead in 500 Days of Summer has a protagonist resonated more profoundly with me than Cabiria in this Fellini classic. Of course, my cinematic taste hovers between the tawdry and the deplorable, faves including Joshua Jackson vehicle The Skulls and cultural patrimony of the Dominican Republic Sanky Panky.

I really related with Cabiria for several reasons. First, she's a prostitute, but not a very good one, just like me. Instead of slithering into pencil skirts and teetering along the cobblestones of Rome in hooker heels, she abounds in stripes and flats. I enjoy donning matching stripy outfits with unsavory characters and taking photos. The resemblance is uncanny. Between Cabiria and I, dummy, not that guy upon whose head I am posing provocatively.

Cabiria's umbrella shares about 80% screen time with the actress, and as I watched this whole psychodrama play out between the fickle rainclouds and our heroine, I thought to myself, "Oh my God, I carry an umbrella on my person at all times too!" She even checks it at a nightclub, which I have also done, after using it to lambaste the doorman and "make a scene."

The nightclub scene really struck a chord, especially when Cabiria entangles herself in a velvety curtain over the entrance to the dance floor. She then proceeds to humiliate her dance partner by clearing the floor with exaggerated mambo number. Not that I've ever done that, per se, but let's just say the members of my party and/ or security may have requested that I descend from the cocktail table while throwing my skirt over my head and doing a bastardized Charleston/ Jamaican dance hall thrash that could easily be confused with a seizure, all while demanding that a busboy pour tequila in my mouth like that time in Puerto Vallarta. Oh well.
But the crux of Cabiria's character lies in the fact that throughout the entire film she is routinely shat upon by men, but never gives up on true love. While that may sound like some hooker- with- a- heart- of- gold conceit, I assure you it's not. Cabiria is a rebel, rejecting the notion that her experiences are the rule (that members of the opposite sex only show any remote interest in you because they are motivated by malicious intent like pushing you into a river and robbing all your earthly possessions, for example) and that they are the exception instead. Two different dates make attempts on her life TWICE, bracketing the film with a lugubrious symmetry. A guy hasn't tried to kill me (yet) but one did steal my identity. Would you believe that there is a check- cashing operation in Plant City, Florida, owned and operated by an Albanian named Paloma Zenaida?

Just listen to what Fellini himself said about his film:

"The subject of loneliness and the observation of the isolated person has always interested me. Even as a child, I couldn’t help but notice those who didn’t fit in for one reason or another—myself included. In life, and for my films, I have always been interested in the out-of-step. Curiously, it’s usually those who are either too smart or those who are too stupid who are left out. The difference is, the smart ones often isolate themselves, while the less intelligent ones are usually isolated by the others. In Nights of Cabiria, I explore the pride of one of those who has been excluded."

Okay, so I definitely fall on the latter half of that elegant equation, being all but shunned by my peer group and society at large, under the charge of "unorthodox social interactions" and violent dancing. But what of it?! Like my heroine Cabiria, I refuse to accept circumstances as they are, despite every signpost and omen otherwise. To the river!

1 comment:

Henke said...

I loved the film. What a performance by Giulietta Masina! Take care.