|Giuletta Masina, wife of Federico Fellini and star of Juliet of the Spirits (1965)|
Juliet of the Spirits (1965)
d. Federico Fellini
Criterion Collection #149
Been reading other blogs that serially review Criterion Collection titles and trying to understand why they are all so boring. Something I've noticed is that they tend to be lengthy over all, contain lengthy plot summations and lots of film studies type observations. If there is one thing I've learned about trying to blog about serious/academic subjects is that people do not a give a fuck and even devoted readers will give you about half a page before they move on. Unless you are like the New York Times, but I bet even they see incredible drop off for lengthy magazine features in terms of page views.
If you write it up in a way that duplicates what is already out there, it's stupid, because if people want to know the plot or themes of Juliet of the Spirits they can Google it and read the Wikipedia page. I think the answer is to make it personal- I think the most successful writers on the web are people who can bring people in to their inner life- and to never assume that people have a background in what you are talking about. In fact, the opposite.
Never considered myself a fan of Fellini. He's got nine titles in the Criterion Collection, but at least three of them aren't available for streaming. I'm sure I suffered through Nights of Cabiria at some point. I've never actually met anyone who said they've watched and enjoyed Fellini's films- but if I did I would look at them at sceptically and say, "Really- have you actually watched a Fellini film, or are you just saying that because you've heard him described as "surreal" and you think liking him is cool?" Because I really have not enjoyed Amarcord or Julie of the Spirits. I mean, I get it- I guess- and I can understand why he was such a revelation in the 60s, but I feel like the movies have aged badly. I probably need to just talk to a fan for fifteen minutes at a party.
Juliet of the Spirits is yet another movie about a failed marriage. Here, it's the powerless wife and the flagrantly philandering husband. Forgive me, but I thought that behavior was entirely acceptable in Italy, particularly when the husband was the bread winner and the wife had no children and didn't work. Juliet is played by Fellini's actual wife, and the story is that this is a movie about their actual marriage, and when Gulieta Masina would ask how to play a certain part or line he would just shout out "Just play yourself."
Oh Fellini! I guess the real story is that Fellini had a ton of gay lovers, which of course does not make it into the Fellini resembling husband, who is here a fashion show promoter of some sort. The usual cast of freaks and characters that gave rise to the phrase "Fellini-esque" are on hand, of course, and Juliet of the Spirits is the first picture where Fellini used color film, so it has that going for it.
But it's hard not to kind of feel sorry for the wife. There is some insight here I suppose, but mostly she just seems confused and bewildered for the entire run time. I guess that's kind of the point, but it makes her look kind of of bad.