La strada


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With this breakthrough film, Federico Fellini launched both himself and his wife and collaborator Giulietta Masina to international stardom, breaking with the neorealism of his early career in favor of a personal, poetic vision of life as a bittersweet carnival. The infinitely expressive Masina registers both childlike wonder and heartbreaking despair as Gelsomina, loyal companion to the traveling strongman Zampanò (Anthony Quinn, in a toweringly physical performance), whose callousness and brutality gradually wear down her gentle spirit. Winner of the very first Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, La strada possesses the purity and timeless resonance of a fable and remains one of cinema’s most exquisitely moving visions of humanity struggling to survive in the face of life’s cruelties.

Picture 8/10

The Criterion Collection releases Federico Fellini’s La strada on its own individual Blu-ray outside of their Essential Fellini box set, presenting the film again in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc.

Criterion appears to be using the same master from that release, based on a 4K restoration scanned from a 35mm duplicate negative. Comparing the presentation here to the one found in the box set shows no discernable difference. Again, it’s a very film-like, very crisp presentation that delivers the finer details impeccably, from Quinn’s face stubble to the tiny details of Masina’s clown make-up and grains of sand on a beach.

The original DVD, released by Criterion in 2003, has managed to hold up decently enough through the years. It was still rather sharp, with the scan apparently coming from the original negative, and the standard-def encode handled grain as well as one could hope. Still, contrast could look off, delivering some boosted blacks with whites blooming a bit, and damage, though not heavy, was still present. This high-def presentation fixes both of those issues, damage barely registering and contrast looking to be balanced a bit better, though some dupey looking inserts, including an extended sequence around a wedding party, show some heavier contrast. And of course, grain is managed better here, looking clean and natural a good chunk of the time, with grayscale also looking cleaner.

In all, it looks no different compared to the box set release, but as with the presentation in that set this one also offers a large substantial upgrade over the already decent DVD edition.

Audio 6/10

From the article for the disc found in the Essential Fellini box set:

Like the DVD, Criterion offers two audio options: the original Italian soundtrack in lossless PCM 1.0 monaural, and the English-dub, featuring the original voices of Anthony Quinn and Richard Basehart, and presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 mono.

The Italian soundtrack has been cleaned up a bit more, presenting no obvious issues, but it is fairly weak and low, probably filtered a bit. Dialogue is still easy to hear, and music sounds fine, but there’s no punch to it.

The English track replicates what was on the DVD: I’m pretty sure they just ported that exact track over. But it doesn’t sound too bad in the end. It can be a bit edgy, and noise is more evident, but voices sound more powerful as does the music. Interestingly the English track has more sound effects in the background, whether it be birds or crickets, or a crackling fire. The Italian track is either missing these things or they sound slightly different. This is also how it is on the original DVD, so I don’t think anything has been messed up during the restoration, and each track was just mixed differently at the time.

Ultimately it will come down to personal preference, but I didn’t have much of a problem with the English-dub.

Extras 8/10

Criterion ports all on-disc content found on their original DVD and on the Blu-ray in the Essential Fellini set, while also technically adding one new feature.

First is the same 13-minute introduction by director Martin Scorsese, recorded for the original DVD, featuring the filmmaker recalling how he first saw the film as a child and the impression it left on him. He explains how he was recognizing Italian neorealism at the time and how the film fit into that, before talking about how the film has influenced his work—mentioning how Quinn’s Zampanò came to mind when working on Taxi Driver and Raging Bull—and then discussions he had with Fellini through the years.

It's a great little overview of the film, which is then expanded upon in the 2003 audio commentary featuring author Peter Bondanella. Author of Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to Present, he does talk about the how film fits under neorealism and Fellini’s relationship with it, while also pointing out the elements that hint at the path that Fellini’s films would eventually take. He also talks about Italian cinema in general from the period, explaining why American actors were often cast, how the language differences could be handled, and the reliance on dubbing during post-production. While most of the focus is on this film and its success both critically and at the box office (even Nino Rota’s soundtrack was a hit seller), he does get into Fellini’s work prior to and following La strada, mentioning how he worked, even how he handled adaptations, and addresses criticisms that have been lobbed at him. It’s a well packed track that has a nice flow, and only screen-specific when it needs to be so Bondanella isn’t simply just regurgitating what’s happening on screen.

Next up is the 55-minute Italian television documentary Federico Fellini’s Autobiography. The documentary, by Paquito del Bosco, is assembled from archival production and interview footage featuring Fellini just musing about filmmaking, his life, and philosophies. Unfortunately, I could always find Fellini a bit much when he gets philosophical, and despite some humorous moments along with some better insights into how he sees the world and how that translates to the films he makes, I do find this one a bit of a chore. That could simply just come down to its structure, though, which is literally just all of these archival pieces stitched together, a good chunk of it from material around the making of La dolce vita. There are some interesting moments and surprises (there’s a part where Fellini and Bergman announce they were going to do a movie together that I had no idea about before I saw this documentary initially), but otherwise there is better material to be found on the director, particularly in this set.

Criterion also includes another documentary, technically new for the title, sharing a similar structure to Fellini documentary, the 52-minute documentary Giulietta Masina: The Power of a Smile, which edits together archival interviews featuring Masina, constructing an autobiography of sorts. Through these interviews she talks about her early radio work and where she met Fellini before touching on her film work, with a heavier focus on La strada and Nights of Cabiria, and she covers the Oscars ceremony around the latter film. Breaking this up a bit, the documentary does also edit in interviews with people that knew Masina, including Fellini himself (though audio-only). The docuementary is fine for what it is, providing a solid overview of Masina’s work and career, but like that previous Fellini documentary it can be a bit of chore because of its structure.

I should point out that while that documentary was not found on the DVD nor on the disc for La strada in the Essential Fellini box set, it was included on the disc for Nights of Cabiria, which suggests that maybe Criterion won’t be releasing an individual Blu-ray for that title, despite their DVD edition being long out of print.

The disc then closes with the film’s trailer. The included insert then features a new essay written by Christina Newland, which doesn’t appear in any other release.

Still a decent set of supplements, the commentary and Scorsese intro probably being the standouts.


A nice upgrade over Criterion’s previous DVD, this new Blu-ray comes with a high recommendation for those that haven’t picked up Criterion’s Essential Fellini box set.


Directed by: Federico Fellini
Year: 1954
Time: 108 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 219
Licensor: BetaFilm
Release Date: November 02 2021
MSRP: $39.95
1 Disc | BD-50
1.37:1 ratio
English 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Italian 1.0 PCM Mono
Subtitles: English
Region A
 Audio commentary from 2003 by Peter Bondanella, author of The Cinema of Federico Fellini   Introduction from 2003 by filmmaker Martin Scorsese   Giulietta Masina: The Power of a Smile, a documentary from 2004   Federico Fellini‚Äôs Autobiography, a documentary originally broadcast on Italian television in 2000   Trailer   An essay by film critic Christina Newland