I just watched this film for the first time yesterday, and I was left with uneasy feelings after it ended. It took me over an hour to get into the film and feel like I had any connection with Juliet, and even then I still only vaguely felt like I knew why things were happening. I love all the colors and the costumes, of course. But it’s the first Fellini film that I’ve seen where I’ve not felt much of a connection to what was going on. Giuiletta Masina is a great actress and “Nights of Cabiria” is one of my favorite films, but she seems uncomfortable and out of place here. Fellini also seems be close to embracing the sort of extravagance he mostly satirized in Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. I can’t help but feel like I agree with the criticisms I’ve read about Fellini placing his wife in his fantasies and trying to pass them off as hers.
Anybody have any thoughts on this? I definitely think there’s a lot there in this movie, it just doesn’t seem as well constructed or well thought out as other Fellini’s I’ve seen.
For me, Liz, this is the most “Fellini” Fellini movie of them all, the film where “Felliniesque” is most defined.
Maybe it took all the color being added to the carnival?
I love most of Fellini’s films, but I found myself feeling very much the same as Liz after viewing this. I saw it quite some time ago, and I’ve been meaning to give it another go to either solidify those thoughts or find a new take on it, but I’ve never quite felt like even putting it on again..
I really love Juliet of the spirits, i like it better than Nights of Cabiria, but then again i really love Fellinis later works.
This is Fellini at his most deeply strange, and I concur with Liz and Mr. King re the main character. Everything is laid out for us in plot and character terms but the film itself is remarkably cool and removed. It’s a genuinely experimental work. Fellini Had just seen jack Smith’s “Normal Love” and worked hard at capturing its color and pictorial sense.
I find the film works for me as a visual feast – is Guilietta’s character hallucinating or not? It is not a film one can ‘explain’, so much as experience. It is one of my favourite Fellini films. I think it was done as a homage to his wife (it is Giulietta degli spirit in Italian, after all) , and a playful parody of some of her obsessions, as well. So typically tongue-in-cheek. Fellini’s decision to film in colour, enhances the marvellous, surreal effect. It is Fellini’s love letter to Guilietta Masina.
This is Fellini at his most deeply strange.
David have you ever seen “Satyricon” or “City of Women” ? “Juliet” is tame compared to those films.
Liz, I have seen all of Fellini’s Library and it sounds like this may have been your first experiance with his later works. I could be wrong of course. They are a whole differnt animal. His later work is some what similar to Bununel’s in surealism and oddness. I think they all still have a very strong structure and solid charecter development though. It isn’t hard to associate with Juliet’s feelings. She is in need of affection and attention and since she can’t get it from her husband she gets it from something she is very pasionate about. The spirit world. Fellini is just very good at making uncomplicated things complicated but still making them simple to follow at the same time if that makes any sense. I am not the best with words. Are you comparing “Nights of Cabiria” with “Juliet” because both the main charecters “Giulietta Masina” in them is desperate and starved for attention? If so you obviously some how got a connection with Juliet and how she was feeling.
I love Juliet Of The Spirits, I think it is beautiful, and Masina has a mousy charm that I have always loved about her. The film is about an imaginative individual who slowly looses her mind after she looses the affection of her husband. I would say it is a masterpice because her lead performance is excellent, the fantasy and psychology element is surreal but not pretensious, it is a genious pice of cinematography that is experty cheorographed as good as 8 1/2, but like the Wizard of Oz, it showcases tehcnicolor in a kledoscopic way. I love it and Giulietta Masina is great and beautiful in it, and i wish Fellini made more like this before really becoming overindulgent.
Fellini was also experimenting with LSD at that time.
Reall, Dr. Frank? I hadn’t heard that before.
This was the first Fellini film I ever saw – back in college – though I’d read a bit about it in Castle of Frankenstein_. I fell in love with it even though I was working too hard at understanding it. I have since come to the conclusion, like Bob, that it is more to be experienced than understood. What struck me was how wonderfully strange it was – how unlike any other film I’d seen up to that time (_The Seventh Seal might be the closest) – how completely it rejected reality. To an extent no other Fellini film has quite matched it for me.
“Satyricon” and “City of Women” are far more grounded in plot and character terms that “Juliet of the Spirits.” The plot — simple faithful wife discovers cheating hubby — is quite banal. One could easily see it done in the neo-realist manner of middle period Rossellini. But Fellini sets it all in this bizarre cloud cukooland of colors and costumes and hallucinations. Quite odd.
I don’t think that the film has aged as well as other Fellinis. David is quite right about the comparative banality of the story, and a good deal of the symbolism is now trite. What I found interesting is that the cloud cuckooland of colors and costumes are all used so negatively. Juliet’s more obviously stereotypically Fellini-esque visions and memories (and the extended sequence at Suzy’s house) are pretty damn threatening and generally unappealing, with those hideous costumes etc. It is surely significant that Juliet puts all of that behind her, and is last seen walking toward the forest — nature, rather than ghastly fashion.
And that too is corny. Fellini has no real interest in nature. It’s a tinny recall of the (vastly superior) ending of “Nights of Cabiria.”
Still when anyone says “Fellinieque” it’s images from “Juliet” that spring immediately to mind.
Yeah, it doesn’t exactly work, does it? It doesn’t have the impact of the finale of 8 1/2 at all.
There’s a lot I like in JULIET, particularly the circus flashback involving Juliet’s grandfather and the circus ballerina, and the flashback with the nuns and the school play. The stuff in Suzy’s house is a bit tiresome, which I think is the point — Suzy’s hedonism is kind of a dead end, but I wish the point had been made without getting annoying.
I like a lot of the less “Fellini-esque” stuff too: the visit to the detective’s office, for example, and the scene where Juliet’s husband finally departs for good.
I have my reservations about JULIET OF THE SPIRITS also, and they are in line with comments above by David and others, mainly having to do with the triteness of the narrative situation and (perhaps) the overindulgence in psychedelic imagery and colors. But I also believe that the film should be considered in the context of the relatively new use of color filming by the European art cinema. JULIET was Fellini’s first color feature and he experimented with color (and Jungian symbolism and hallucinogenic drugs), as did Antonioni in his first color feature, RED DESERT, the very next year.
I would respectfully disagree with David on the very ending of JULIET, though. To me, that may be the one point in the film when Fellini DOES seem to care about Nature. Juliet moves away from the imprisoning house, moving left to right (the natural direction of our eye movement) and, as the house leaves the frame, those magnificent tall trees come into view as that jaunty Nino Rota music wells up on the soundtrack. The space of the frame is expanded exponentially, just as Juliet’s life opinions have become expanded once she rejects suicide (her childhood friend Laura’s option). That may seem corny to some but it’s not much cornier (at least to me) than the end of NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, which also features a sudden transformation of Giulietta Masina in a forest accompanied by swelling music, as SHE chooses to embrace life instead of wallowing in despair or self-pity OR committing suicide.
The lead-up to that final image in JULIET, though, including all the “spirits” leaving, and her inner “conversation” with one of them, is somewhat tinny, as David suggests. If I wanted to cut Fellini some slack on that, I’d say that MANY filmmakers were then attempting to find ways to depict a character’s monologue interieur, his/her consciousness. JULIET was one attempt; MARIENBAD was another. Perhaps cinema is a difficult art form to convey what truly goes on in our minds…
Juliet is my favourite Fellini so far. I don’t agree with Roger Ebert and Liz above that this film should be viewed as a gift (or showpiece or whatever) for Giuiletta Masina and subsequently judged on how well it managed to be that. Indeed it would fail if done so, but luckily the film is so much more.
Frank: Red Desert was made one year before Juliet, not after. And Fellini wouldn’t have been Fellini without his overindulgence,
Along with Satyricon and City of Women, Juliet of the Spirits is among my favorite of Fellini’s efforts. It seems that the divide between those who like the more traditional films made before 8 1/2 and those who love the visionary imagination of those done from 8 1/2 onward has to do with a general perception of the world and a tolerance for ambiguity and symbolism. Personally, I’ve always been drawn to films that show me visions rather than plot. Just as in a dream, a strong visual image will stay with me long after a storyline is forgotten. 8 1/2 was the gateway film for Fellini, an entry through the dream portal — and I’m so glad he went through it. The rewards of that passage are manifest in “Juliet of the Spirits.”