Of all the great Italian filmakers, Federico Fellini is certainly the best of the best. This was the first film to receive the Academy award for Best Foreign film, and the first of Fellini's work to gain him international acclaim. The story is relatively simple. A brutish Strongman (Anthony Quinn) takes a naive young girl (Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wife) from her home and family, to be part of his travels across the country. Masina becomes part of Quinn's traveling act, which consists of Quinn breaking strong chains by expanding his chest. But Masina really steals the show from Quinn, with her almost natural ability to perform as a clown. She becomes the chief asset to the act, though Quinn doesn't treat her that way. He hardly appreciates her at all and handles her brutally. Things change for the worse, when a traveling acrobat-clown (Richard Basehart), becomes friends with Masina, but by doing so becomes an enemy of Quinn's. Tragedy results from Basehart's interference into Quinn's savage world.<
What can I say? A true delight, with Fellini's usual brilliant mixing of divine comedy and tragic drama. His visuals are (as always) imaginative, and the acting is superb. Quinn has never been more towering, but Masina is the real star. Her excellent pantomime brings to mind a female version of Charlie Chaplin. This was the film that got me interested in Fellini. If you have never seen any of his movies, then you should start with this one.