Archive for November 26th, 2014


 © 2014 by James Clark

      The first episode of Nights of Cabiria (1957) is a crime melodrama so offbeat it could almost be science fiction. We see in the middle distance a diminutive woman, in a white dress with horizontal black waves, zigging and zagging and shimmying backwards in bright sunlight across the nondescript scrub and debris land of the outskirts of Rome, in the throes of the money-mad developments of the post-War “Economic Miracle.” It is impossible not to be struck by the ebullience of her actions, showering affectionate playfulness upon a male friend in stylish shades not a party to her kinetic imperatives. They come to the Tiber and, like a one-track insect, he elbows her into its blazing current, not forgetting to come away with her purse which, just seconds before, she had twirled in a wide orbit. Though she was a player in good standing when it came to gracing terra firma, we immediately realize she’s a non-swimmer (her arms and hands describing graceful but nonetheless hapless arabesques into the river run which has all but swallowed for good the rest of her body). In a spirited effort she brings her head to light and screams for help. Children (one of them in a North American Indian headdress) playing along the river bank hear this and rush to do what they can to save her. One of them remarks, “If she gets to the sewer she won’t get up again!” (Hold that thought.) A well-dressed passer-by takes off his suit jacket and then, applying some of the rationality that took him this far, puts it back on and (after demanding an inventory of possible rescuers in the vicinity) cuts out. Less formally dressed men supplement the children’s efforts in diving into the menacing dynamics of the river and getting her to shore, by beginning to apply artificial respiration. As they hold her upside down (her spiffy shift now miserably soaked and dirty) and find reason to enthuse in her emitting water from her lungs and mouth, a woman standing nearby bites her fist (her face and eyes almost drowned in anxiety about the victim’s difficulties and prospects, but also in distress about a close encounter with death). (more…)

Read Full Post »