La Strada is the latest Region B release in Umbrella Entertainment’s expanding World Cinema sub-label, spotlighting important and famous films from around the world. This is a fantastic poster child for the label, as despite being a cornerstone of film history, it was unavailable in Australia and Region B for a long time. I must confess, cinephile that I profess to be, this was my first Federico Fellini. La Strada immediately became one of my favourite films upon completion. If it weren’t for Umbrella championing such fare, this might indeed never have happened.
La Strada follows Gelsomina (played by Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina) who is essentially sold into marriage with Zampanò (Anthony Quinn), a traveling performing strongman, to pay her mother’s debts. La Strada translates to “The Road,” and the film follows the two characters along the road as Zampanò performs and they meet other performing folk. As their journey continues, Gelsomina aches to find herself and her identity outside of the marriage into which she was forced. What unfolds is both tragic and moving in equal measure.
Fellini deconstructs the savagery and cruelty of the patriarchy. Not content to show us the physical manifestations of such abuse, Fellini contrasts the pure soul of Gelsomina with Zampanò’s cruelty to heart-rending effect. Masina is unbelievable as the sweet and naïve Gelsomina, in a performance that feels totally unique among the many I’ve seen over the years. Quinn is equally arresting as Zampanò, imbuing the brutish man with humanity that is the key to the narrative while never making him a sympathetic character. Fellini suffered a nervous breakdown while filming, and the harried mental state feels represented in the storytelling on screen. The final shot is one that has stuck with me many days after watching it, and I think it speaks to the staying power of this film that it has resonated so strongly through the years.
From a technical standpoint, Umbrella’s La Strada looks magnificent, the scan used is wonderfully clear, and its blacks and whites look just great. The physical packaging is a nice addition for collectors as well, the numbered slipcase fitting well with the format of Umbrella’s other boutique offerings. The extras are fairly short, but the only full-length commentary in Region B is a welcome addition and sure to please film buffs. Overall, Umbrella has put together a wonderful package, and one can only hope they bring more Fellini to Region B in the future.