Friday, February 22, 2008

Giulietta, Lo Spippolo

Today is the birthday of Giulietta Masina, the Italian actress noted for her roles in the most well known of Fellini's early films, La Strada and Notti Di Cabiria. She also happened to be Fellini's wife for 40 some years until they passed away within months of one another; he in October 1993 and she in March of 1994.

Despite the close connection between the two, creatively and as polar personalities and physical opposites, Giulietta was a great talent regardless, winning accolades and awards as a supporting actress before appearing in her husband's films.

Giulietta had the natural whimsical grace of a mime and dancer and was often referred to as the female Chaplin in Europe. At a little under 5ft. she had waif-like appearance that made her a comic natural and an amusing counterpoint to Anthony Quinn's strongman, Zampano, in La Strada.

Fellini's own nickname for her was Lo Spippolo which is a slang word meaning "any small thing that inspires tenderness".

Early in life she displayed musical talent but with fingers that were to small to progress at the piano, she had more success at the violin. Her appearance on the dancing stage appeared comic or limited by her appearance and so, she was, in a sense, derailed into the theatre and radio where she found her niche preceding her film roles.

For myself and many others, the culmination and fulfillment of her screen talent was in the role of Cabiria, the resilient but perennially ill-fated prostitute in
Le Notti Di Cabiria
My favorite scene featuring Giulietta in this movie occurs when "Cabiria" wanders into a vaudeville house where a hypnotist ( masterfully; dare I say "hypnotically"? What the hell!) played by Aldo Silvani, is performing, taking volunteers from the audience. After he brings up the local jeering louts onstage and transforms them into amusing buffoons, he manages to convince Cabiria to "go under". What follows is a wonderful scene, a tribute to both Giulietta and Fellini at their poetic best.

see it here
.. i don't think you have to know Italian to appreciate it!
Andiamo amici!

* thanks to blitzey's posting on youtube for this marvelous scene!


persephone2u said...

All hail Fellini, my all time favorite! And happy birthday to Giulietta Masina too. This was another wonderful and informative blog I must say.

Tom the Piper's Son said...

Thanks Persephone.

I must admit the early films of Fellini are much more palatable to me than the middle and later (with the exception of Amarcord and a few others) - I love the White Sheik, La Strada, and Notti Di Cabiria.