September 20th, 2005

Juliet Of The Spirits

Back in the old days before DVD and video you had to hunt films down. You were dependent on what local film societies had in their programmes and what the BBC was deigning to show after midnight. You had to be keen.

I once belonged to a film club that had its screenings in a redundant Methodist chapel. Stone walls, stone floor, no heating. Imagine watching Duck Soup on a winter's night with a travel rug wrapped round your shaking knees and your breath smoking on the frozen air- look at Groucho up there, lucky bugger, he's in evening dress and he's warm!

For years the only Fellini that came my way was Juliet of the Spirits. I had seen it twice before I finally managed to catch up with 8 1/2 and La Strada. Then it went off the radar. The BBC shows La Dolce Vita at regular intervals and never Juliet.


The critical concensus is that it represents a step down from 8 1/2. I don't think so. I like it better. It's subtler. With 8 1/2 you can talk about "fantasy sequences" because it's reasonably clear where we slip from the "real" world into the "imagined" world. With Juliet you can't spot the joins. The needlework is finer.

Fellini was moving towards a cinema of total subjectivity. Juliet is the final step. There's a cast of hundreds, but only one character. (Witty, delightful Giulietta Masina, the queen of pathos- the female Chaplin.) Everything that happens, happens inside her head. This is it, the thing is done. Ite, missa est. There's a sense in which everything Fellini did afterwards (no matter how big the budget) was just footnotes.

Finally it's out on DVD. Digitally remastered. The copies I saw in stuffy lecture rooms and frozen chapels were degraded and bled-out. Suddenly I'm seeing the colours Fellini wanted me to see and they're gorgeous.

I love this film.

It's come back to me.


Gacked From Almost Everyone On My FLIist

LJ Interests meme results

  1. bloomsbury:
    Because it's the most beautiful place on earth. Secret gardens and lovely, early 19th century stucco.
    Also Virginia Woolf lived there.
  2. deadwood:
    This should be changed to read Deadwood, series #1- because series #2 sucks.
    I have always loved westerns.
  3. ghosts:
    Where to begin?
    We love what we fear.
  4. john ford:
    He made westerns
    (see above)
  5. manfred von richthofen:
    As a kid I had a thing about the flying aces of WWI.
    I had a Sopwith Camel in my bedroom. Actually I had a folding card table and I sat under it and pretended it was the upper wing.
  6. polia:
    Polia is the girl Poliphilo loves in the "novel" Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.
    The name means "many" as in polymorphous and polyamory and polyglot.
    I am a renaissance man.
  7. sam peckinpah:
    He made westerns too.
  8. swinburne:
    When with flame all around him aspirant
    Stood flushed as a harp player stands
    The implacable, beautiful tyrant
    Rose crowned, having death in his hands
    And a sound as the sound of loud water
    Smote far through the flight of the fires
    And mixed with the lightning of slaughter-
    A thunder of lyres.
  9. van eyck:
    I love the Flemish school. And Van Eyck is its daddy.
    In the Arnolfini marriage portrait there's a window aslant and you can just see a little blue sky and foliage through it.
    I want to climb out that window.
  10. welles:
    He didn't make westerns.
    But he did make some of the best movies ever.
    Chimes at Midnight is my favourite.

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