La Stradai is perhaps the definitive work on gender relations.
The girl is mentally retarded. This isn't to say she's not intelligent - in her own way she's kind of clever. This isn't to say she's not "creative". Whatever that term may mean (and however ridiculous this creativity concern may sound when speaking of a woman, the only beast in existance that bleeds the few days a month she's being uncreative) I'd guess it applies just fine.
"What then ?! She's clever, she's creative, what else is there! How can you say she's mentally retarded in these circumstances!" you might proceed to indignantly pretend like you're asking me while trying to instead tell me. Well... she has no idea of her own value and position in the grander scheme of life. This is a great symptom of mental retardation : not knowing your place, as an adult. Good enough. Furthermore, she has retarded reactions to murder. Murder is a fact of life. It's what healthy, adult men do, exactly as much and exactly the same as having babies is what healthy, adult women do. Her reaction to murder is akin to current day bois' reaction to birth, you'd think the sky just fell over. Also good enough.
The story is quite simply this : girl is one day called upon by her mother to take her place in the world, which place consists of the hole left by one of her deceased sisters. Much like a dog of age is going to be summoned to take his place in front of the sled, much like a colt of age is going to soon enough meet saddle and shoe.
Her owner (because gender relations do always construct on this natural, emergent, eternal and unbreakable master-slave matrix universalis) calling her into the world is an absolute beast and a proper king. Her secondary, fleeting interest is a sort of jack, the nimble, flashy, voluble, Matto (ie, fool). The king ends up killing the jack, as kings always do. This brings forth her second layer of mental retardation, which proves too much for him. He could tolerate her with just the one layer, but two together are too much, and so she is left, alone, purposeless and broken.
She dies there, waiting for him to perhaps return, to perhaps absolve her. Years later he passes by, and collects her spirit. The end.
The genius of a cook is not using new and unheard of ingredients, but the mixing and matching of well known and well understood ingredients. Similarly, the genius of Fellini is not coming up with new elements, but the clever, creative remixing of old Commedia stock characters into a story. You've never heard of a Sandrone psychopomp before, have you ? The study of contrasts, the precision of drapery, the unerring hand focusing and cropping the story into eternal, essential form make this perhaps Fellini's best film. With the possible exception, of course, of all the others.
Still, not something children would likely enjoy.———
- 1954, by Federico Fellini, with Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Basehart [↩]