Nights of Cabiria
R0 - Australia - Umbrella Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (6th May 2018).
The Film

"Nights of Cabiria" ("Le notti di Cabiria") (1957)

Cabiria (played by Guilietta Masina) is a streetwalker at night, but is looking for true love rather than just a fast grab, but she is not finding love in the right places. While walking with Giorgio (played by Franco Fabrizi) he suddenly pushes her into a river and takes off with her purse, not to be seen again. While on a date with actor Alberto (played by Amedeo Nazzari), things get awkward when his lover Jessie (played by Dorian Gray) returns unexpectedly. No matter what she does, things always reset to zero, with her ending up in her old dilapidated home alone and complaining about the world treating her poorly. Will Cabiria ever escape from her world of sadness and experience true happiness?

While making "The White Sheik" in 1952, director Federico Fellini introduced the character of Cabiria in one scene - a cheerful and very positive prostitute that was a definite scene stealer, played by his wife Guilietta Masina. Five years later the character was brought back to the screen as the title character in "Nights of Cabiria", where she once again captured the hearts of filmgoers. Cabiria is a character that goes through a lot of episodic happenings in the nearly two hour runtime, but what really sets her apart is how Masina brings the role to life, with scenes that will make audiences laugh due to her balletic physical performance that dubbed her the Female Chaplin, with the fun mambo sequence, bumping her head on a glass door, and her expressive face. But it's not all fun and games. There are many scenes of drama with extreme sadness and anger, and Masina expresses each sequence beautifully.

One of the forefront films in Italian Neo-realism, "Nights of Cabiria" depicts Rome on the outskirts as well as the rich city. People live in squalor on the edges of the city, from people in caves and holes in the ground, or in unkept housing developments, while the rich live in lavish homes and dine in exclusive clubs. The differences in the world are seen through the eyes of Cabiria and the indifference is heartbreaking and upsetting, especially in the scene of "The Man with a Sack", where a man delivers food and goods to homeless people, and one that makes Cabiria see genuine good in people. Originally this seven minute scene was cut from theatrical release, as producer Dino De Laurentiis felt it slowed down the plot, and the film with the sequence actually tested worse with preview audiences. The sequence was finally reinstated years later through Fellini's wishes.

There are many memorable sequences in the film - the multiple funeral processions that haunt Cabiria, the hypnosis sequence, the second time that Cabiria is almost killed, and the unforgettable final sequence in which Cabiria breaks the fourth wall by staring directly at the audience with a tearful of mascara rolling from her eye. Fellini has made many masterpieces over time and "Nights of Cabiria" is one of his most celebrated, being one of four films Fellini directed that won the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, the others being "La strada" (1954), "8 1/2" (1963), and "Amarcord" (1973). In addition the film won the Palme d'Or, Best Actress, and the OCIC Awards at the Cannes Film Festival as well as numerous Best Actress and Best Director awards at film festivals worldwide. Cabiria captured the hearts of filmgoers and even more than a half century later, the sympathy and fascination for the character has not died down.

Note this is a region 0 NTSC DVD which can play back on any DVD or Blu-ray player worldwide

Video

Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio (non-anamorphic) in the NTSC format. The film was restored in 1998 by Studio Canal and Rialto Pictures, which reinstated an originally deleted seven minute sequence "The Man with a Sack" and underwent a picture and sound restoration from the original negative. The restored edition was released on DVD by The Criterion Collection in the United States in 1999, and nearly twenty years later, this Australian DVD from Umbrella Entertainment is sourced from the same master. While in 1999 the image was a revelation, in today's view it has its deficiencies. There are occasional specs, scratches, gate hairs, and unnatural grey level fluctuations, fine detail is on the softer side, though it is consistently on the watchable side.

In comparison to The Criterion Collection DVD from 1999, it is obvious that the same master from 1998 was used as the same damage marks are in the identical positions and the grey levels are identical. Though there are some differences. First of all, the Umbrella release is very slightly squeezed in comparison to the Criterion which is really only noticeable if toggling the images back and forth. As for detail, the Umbrella disc looks softer than the Criterion, with the Criterion having more film grain and details in faces on close inspection. The Umbrella disc is slightly a step down in image, which even after nearly twenty years, the Criterion has the better image.

This is the restored theatrical release which the runtime is 117:36.




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Audio

Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
The restored original Italian language track is presented in 2.0 mono. Like the picture, the restored track came from the 1998 restoration of the film, which resynchronized the film's soundtrack to the film. With almost all Italian productions of the period having post-synchronized dialogue, there were times the mouths of the Italian actors didn't exactly match the dialogue track. The audio was better restored and match much better than the previous incarnations of the film. Defects such as hisses and pops were removed, keeping a fairly well balanced track, though due to the source materials and the age of the film, only a limited amount could be done. There can be some crackly moments with loud voices, but overall the music sounds good and the dialogue is clear.

There are optional English subtitles in a yellow font for the film. The translations are based off the 1998 restoration of the film which re-translated the Italian dialogue to include the colloquial Rome street slang used in the dialogue. Unfortunately, the subtitles are riddled with errors. Sometimes when the word "I" is used at the start of the sentence it is accidentally spelled as "L" such as "L gotta sleep" or ""L'll fix them!". Two separated words are sometimes written without a space such as "outwith" rather than "out with". Sometimes letter are missing such as "Where'll you go?" written as "Where' you go?". There are also some errors with the left-untranslated Italian words such as in the screencap above where the word "confessione" misspelled on the Australian disc.

Extras

Unfortunately there are no extras. No menus, nothing.

As stated before the film was released on DVD in various countries over the years. The US Criterion DVD had multiple featurettes and trailers. The Italian FilmAuro Home Video DVD had an optional 5.1 track plus numerous interviews. The UK Optimum DVD had an exclusive film critic interview. Strangely the film has not been released on Blu-ray anywhere in the world as of yet.

Packaging

The packaging states region 4 only but this is actually a region 0 disc.

Overall

"Nights of Cabiria" is absolutely one of Fellini's best neo-realist films and one that stands the test of time, with the powerful optimistic female lead that became one of the most memorable film characters in cinema. The Australian Umbrella Entertainment DVD features a fair transfer of the director's cut of the film, but unfortunately no extras.

The Film: A Video: B- Audio: B Extras: F- Overall: C

 


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