Sunday, May 5, 2013

Juliet of the Spirits

"Juliet of the Spirits" (originally Giulietta degli spiriti) is one of my favorite movies of all time. This 1965 (!) masterpiece by Federico Fellini is both about his wife and not about his wife. It's a character study and it's not a character study. Fellini is directing his wife and muse, Giulietta Masina, here is one of her finest roles. You get a sense throughout this movie that is might just be putting us on, indulging her husband's fantasy of who he thinks she is for the sake of her own amusement, and we get to watch. It's an utterly playful movie, hardly the super-serious dour sort of thing people sometimes think when it comes to foreign films. It's sexy and funny and bizarre at times. But then, in a typically Fellinisque way, it will take an insightful turn and you are suddenly overwhelmed with the concision of his artistic vision.

It's a difficult movie to describe, but I will just include this short clip that might give you a taste. Fellini was a master of the surreal, and no one would be surprised to hear that he reported taking LSD to prepare to make this film. But this is not just the random visions of a hallucinating genius--this is highly disciplined, crafted stuff. Notice is this clip, for example, the simple, bold strokes he makes. It's not confusing at all. And when he does gives us perplexing images (in this or any other of his films) we are never left alone in our confusion, bystanders who don't get the joke; he always gives us character that are equally bewildered to lean on. Few Directors ever have done a better job capturing the uncanny quality of dreams, visions, and the miraculous encountered in everyday life.


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