Federico Fellini's "La Strada" (1954) tells a fable that is simple by his later standards, but contains many of the obsessive visual trademarks that he would return to again and again: the circus, and parades, and a figure suspended between earth and sky, and one woman who is a waif and another who is a carnal monster, and of course the seashore. Like a painter with a few favorite themes, Fellini would rework these images until the end of his life.
The movie is the bridge between the postwar Italian neorealism which shaped Fellini, and the fanciful extravaganzas which followed. It is fashionable to call it his best work - to see the rest of his career as a long slide into over-elaboration. However, the film won Best Foreign Language Academy Award in 1957.
In almost all of Fellini's films, you will find the figure of a man caught between earth and sky. You will find journeys, processions, parades, clowns, freaks, and the shabby melancholy of an empty field at dawn, after the circus has left. (Fellini's very last film seen in this country, 1987's "Intervista," ends with such an image.)
And you will hear it all tied together with the music of Nino Rota, who, starting with "I Vitelloni" in 1953, faithfully composed for Fellini some of the most distinctive film scores ever written, merging circus music and pop songs with the sadly lyrical sounds of accordions and saxophones and lonely trumpets.
The cast is exemplary from Anthony Quinn's loveable brute to Giuletta Masina's innocent ingenue and shot with some beautiful cinematography which transfers beautifully on this 2K restoration and is a perfect stepping stone to see where Fellini was years before his masterpiece La Dolce Vita just three years later.
The DVD from StudioCanal is released for £17.99 and £22.99 on Blu-ray and would be a welcome addition to any World Cinema catalogue.