Matchup of the Day: La Strada vs. Lost Highway
The Time article “Federico Fellini: 5 Reasons He Still Matters” says “Fellini had a pipeline to his own subconscious like few other filmmakers before or since”, mentioning David Lynch as one of the directors who come closest. This article by Shannon Kelly Directors’ Federico Fellini and David Lynch Share More Than a Birthday further delves into their similarities. In celebration of their both being born on January 20, today’s matchup focuses on two of their films with titles involving roads.
Nowadays Fellini’s La Strada (The Road) is widely regarded as a high point in world cinema. At the time of its release, Fellini was part of the Italian Neorealism movement, which focused on producing films that depicted the harsh realities of life after World War II. La Strada was considered an affront to the principles of the movement due to it being a bit more fanciful than the tenets allowed for. According to the Wikipedia entry for the film, a fight broke out when La Strada won the Silver Lion Award at the 1954 Venice Film Festival over Senso by Luchino Visconti (whose Ossessione is credited as the first Neorealist film). Despite the ideological differences, La Strada went on to win a number of other awards, including the first Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Fellini’s status as an important filmmaker rose steadily from that point.
In the book Lynch on Lynch, the director says, in response to how roads figure prominently in his films
And Fellini’s La Strada is one of my favorite films! A road, I’ve been thinking, is a moving forward into the unknown, and that’s compelling to me. That’s also what films are – the lights go down, the curtain opens and away we go, but we don’t know where we’re going.
The Lost Highway has not attained quite the same level of regard as La Strada, though it has developed a cult following and was even adapted as an opera (La Strada was adapted into an unsuccessful musical at one point). When Siskel & Ebert gave Highway the dreaded Two Thumbs Down, Lynch took advantage of their condemnation by releasing a poster declaring “Two more great reasons to see… Lost Highway.” David Lynch has always done his own thing, of course, even famously turning down the offer from George Lucas to direct Return of the Jedi. Approval from mainstream critics probably mattered as little to his creative process as staying within the confines of Neorealism mattered to Fellini.
The road of cinematic appreciation is more exciting when “we don’t know where we’re going”, and visionaries like Fellini and Lynch are who make the journey worthwhile.