Fredrico Felliini's 1954 masterpiece, "La Strada" stars Giulietta Masina (the director's wife) as Gelsomina, a childlike woman who volunteers to leave her poverty-stricken family to join Zampano (a powerful performance by Anthony Quinn), a strongman who comes to rely on the young woman, yet is also abusive to her. When she unsuccessfully escapes, they join a circus whose highlight is "The Fool" (Richard Basehart), a tightrope walker who comes to understand and comfort the young woman, telling her that, despite the fact that she thinks herself insignificant, she does in fact have potential to be something more.
Yet, Zampano has not had his final say, as his jealousy results in a confrontation between himself and the Fool that can only end in tragedy. "La Strada" won best Foreign Film in 1966.
VIDEO: Criterion's presentation of "La Strada" offers the film in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The transfer was done on a Spirit Datacine and, remarkably, used the film's original camera negative. As with many of Criterion's titles, the MTI restoration system was used to remove many instances of dirt, specks and other debris on the element used.
The presentation isn't without flaws, but the black and white image is largely in extraordinary shape. Sharpness and detail are impressive, as fine details are clearly visible in many scenes, both on the actors (individual hairs, for example) and even into backgrounds. However, a little bit of shimmering occasionally took away from an otherwise pristine image. The MTI restoration system certainly seems to have done its job, as the picture appeared free of all but a couple of minor instances of wear.
SOUND: The presentation includes mono tracks in both English and Italian. The Italian soundtrack is certainly the prefered way to listen to the film, but, to my surprise, the English dub was pretty decent. The soundtrack has been remastered to remove instances of pops, clicks, hiss and other distortion, and the result is that the listening experience is quite pleasant, as both dialogue, Nino Rota's score and the film's few sound effects remain crisp and clear.
EXTRAS: Author Peter Bondella provides a wonderful, full-length audio commentary for the feature, discussing both the history of the production and the themes present in the film. He also goes over the career highlights of many of the cast and crew involved, while pointing out some very interesting behind-the-scenes tidbits. Also included on the first disc is a 10-minute introduction from Martin Scorsese, who talks about how the film influenced his works, including characters such as Jake Lamotta in "Raging Bull". The trailer is also included. The second DVD houses a nearly hour-long documentary on the career of Fellini, which was made for Italian TV. The documentary includes plenty of interesting interviews and some rare glimpses of behind-the-scenes footage.
Final Thoughts: A powerful tale of love and the search for purpose and redemption, "La Strada" is certainly a classic. Performances by Giulietta Masina and Anthony Quinn are also quite memorable. Criterion's 2-DVD set offers excellent video and audio quality, along with a few good supplements. Highly Recommended.
The Film ****