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Film / Nights of Cabiria

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Nights of Cabiria is a 1957 film directed by Federico Fellini. Nino Rota composed the soundtrack.

It deals with Cabiria, a hooker in the suburbs of Rome, and her weird experiences, including almost being drowned by a man, going to a progression, meeting a famous actor, and wondering if she should change her ways. She tries again and again to change her life for the better, but never has any luck. The problem is that she is a fairly idealistic person against a very cynical world.

Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina, stars as Cabiria. One of the earlier films produced by Dino De Laurentiis. Adapted by Neil Simon into the musical Sweet Charity, which was itself adapted into a movie in 1969.

The film provides examples of:

  • Aside Glance: Cabiria looks at the camera once or twice as she smiles at the end.
  • Bittersweet Ending: It should be a terribly depressing Downer Ending, really. Oscar robs Cabiria of absolutely everything; her 700,000 lira bankroll is gone, her house is already sold, she has nothing but the clothes she's wearing, and is left as a lonely penniless prostitute. But as she's walking down the road weeping, a bunch of partiers singing and playing instruments appear, and they cheer Cabiria up. She smiles as the film fades to black.
  • Book Ends: The film starts and finishes with a man robbing Cabiria's purse alongside a river. Also, both men contemplate on throwing her to the river; the first one does it.
  • Break the Cutie: Life seems determined to grind Cabiria down.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Cabiria makes a fool of herself in a show courting with an imaginary man named Oscar. Then it turns out there was a man in the audience really named Oscar, who falls for her. What a coincidence! Although, of course, he probably was lying about his name.
  • The Ditz: Poor Cabiria isn't all that bright. She doesn't even figure out that something is up when Oscar asks "Can you swim?" while standing at the edge of a cliff overlooking a lake.
  • Ends with a Smile: Cabiria's life gets essentially ruined - her money is stolen, she loses her house, and she has nothing left except her clothes. Then, as she's walking down the street, she passes a group of partygoers cheering and singing. Looking at them, she smiles and the film ends.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: Oscar proposes to Cabiria at the tenth date. She and her friend Wanda lampshade it. Deconstructed.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Underneath the tough exterior, she is a sweet woman who really cares about what happens to other people, and only wants to be happy.
  • Hope Spot: Oscar romances Cabiria and asks her to marry him, and it seems like she might escape her sad existence. But there is an air of foreboding about the romance. Then Cabiria shows Oscar her bankroll and he starts to act somewhat distant, and the feeling of doom intensifies. By the time he tells her he knows a shortcut through the woods, the end is practically a Foregone Conclusion.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Cabiria and Alberto Lazzari.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Maybe love with her pimp—but no, he robs her and chucks her in the river. Maybe love with the movie director—but no, after his regular girl comes home Cabiria is forgotten. Maybe love with Oscar—but no, he's a con artist after her money.
  • Mood Whiplash: Throughout the movie. For instance, the movie starts with Cabiria and her lover goofing around near a river, looking like a heartwarming moment between two lovers, then he throws her to the river and steals her stuff.
  • More Hypnotizable Than He Thinks: Cabiria laughs at the notion that the stage hypnotist could hypnotize her. He then rather cruelly hypnotizes Cabiria into believing she is meeting her dream lover.
  • Oh, Crap!: A terribly sad one when Cabiria finally figures out that Oscar is a con artist who is going to rob her and might be about to kill her.
  • One Head Taller: Cabiria is very short, so it tends to happen; especially when she meets the actor Alberto Lazzari.
  • The Pollyanna: Her depressing existence as a middle-aged hooker won't get Cabiria down.
  • Shout-Out: Cabiria is named for the famous Italian silent film epic Cabiria.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: And she can't find him.
  • Streetwalker: Cabiria's job. She seems strangely upbeat, despite her direly depressing life.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Amleto’s uncle tries to do this at a shrine to the Virgin Mary, failing spectacularly.
  • The X of Y: Especially when one notes that the Italian title uses "the" (Le Notti di Cabiria.)