24 December 2007 | jcappy
Parallels With "La Strada"
Cukor's "Wild is the Wind" seems to be a kind of tribute to Fellini's classic "La Strada." He made his film just a couple years later, and sets it up along very similar lines. He selects Antony Quinn, Zampano for Fellini, to be his male lead, Gino. And chooses the forceful Anna Magnani (Gioia) to equal Guiletta Masina's rather astonishing performance in the central role of Gelsomina in "La Strada."
Gino, the Nevada ranch owner, is the same kind of brutish, brooding hunk as is the strong man performer in "La Strada." They act in the masculine mode, determined, gusty, sometimes cruel, and in different senses, heroically alone. It is perhaps the poverty of the former and Gino's outsider status (Italian in Nevada) that open each up to change, and redemption. Each, however, is hardened against the actual woman--whoseservice he demands, and whose body he exploits--who offers that change.
Gioia, like her parallel, Gelsomina, is a replacement for a dead sister. Zampano purchases Gelsomina after his Rosa dies. Gino orders Gioia as a mail order bride to replace his wife who died after several desperate attempts to give him a child. Both women find themselves trapped in a feelingless, cold, abusive relationship, removed from human response and the natural world. They are owned--body and soul, and are, of course, interchangeable with their sisters.
But Gioia's resistance, like that of her predecessor, is central. Each woman is engaged, through a compelling range of small acts and facial expressions--they are FACES above all else--in a form of survival which doubles as opposition. What the man denies, they affirm, what he kills, they save. Each is strongly in touch with the needless suffering endured by humans and animals, and are sickened by the acts that cause it . And each is more bold than pleasing, more spirited than spiritual, and more troubling than tamed.
Both women have one or two male allies who bear some similarity. Bene (Tony Francioso) seems related to "La Strada"s tightrope walker (Richard Basehart): both men serving as alternative male's who have understanding and sympathy for these held women, and for the natural world they defend. They create space an breathing room--Bene's lust seems out of character. And then too each, in the end, leaves these women to the mercy of their oppressive situation. (Alberto, Gino's older brother, is perhaps a more practical ally than these two, however: it is his unusually direct and touching challenge to his brother that forces him to perceive Gioia as a person.)
All the major roles of La Strada are more convincing and consistent, and thus the ending is more powerful. Gino's redemption is also secured at a much lower cost than Zampano's, which has to do with the weaker script/plot than and not his less rigid nature. However "Wild is the Wind," given Cukor's Hollywood models and restraints, measures up quite well to Fellini's classic.