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Tony Grist

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Juliet Of The Spirits [Sep. 20th, 2005|11:13 am]
Tony Grist
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.


[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2005-09-20 04:39 am (UTC)
That's interesting. I saw 8-1/2 when it first came out and found it silly. It pretty much put me off Fellini. (I found a lot of the "art" films of the later Sixties and early Seventies to be silly, which may speak volumes about my actual taste.)

Perhaps I'll look for Juliet of the Spirits one of these days.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-09-20 04:52 am (UTC)
I guess it was those movies that shaped my taste.

I love Bergman and Fellini and Bunuel. I love the way they take you into the world of dreams.
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[User Picture]From: beentothemoon
2005-09-20 05:55 am (UTC)
I saw Juliet of The Spirits for the first time this summer and was fortunate to catch it on the big screen of a grand old theater called The Paramount (grand old theaters are almost always named The Paramount) and even though I love 8 1/2 I've got to say Juliet is probably my favorite. Everything I've seen by him has since paled in comparison, especially The Satyricon.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-09-20 06:06 am (UTC)
My favourite Fellinis are la Dolce Vita, Juliet and Roma- in no particular order.

I might add Notte di Cabiria if only I'd seen it all the way through.

I think 8 1/2 has wonderful things in it. Especially the beginning with the helicopter and the dangling statue of Christ and the ending (which brings tears to my eyes) but I don't think interest is sustained all the way through. To put it bluntly, large tracts of it are dull.

Satyricon looks amazing, but whats the point?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-09-20 06:09 am (UTC)
Hang on- the helicopter is la Dolce Vita. 8 1/2 starts with him floating away from the traffic jam.
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