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PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2005 8:56 pm 

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Juliet of the Spirits

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Cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo's masterful use of Technicolor transforms Juliet of the Spirits, Fellini's first color feature, into a kaleidoscope of dreams, spirits, and memories. Giulietta Masina plays a betrayed wife whose inability to come to terms with reality leads her along a hallucinatory journey of self-discovery. The Criterion Collection is proud to present the fully restored version of one of Fellini's most dazzling dreams.

Special Features

- New digital transfer, enhanced for 16x9 televisions
- Familiar Spirits, a 19-minute interview with Fellini by Ian Dallas
- Theatrical trailer
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 8:57 am 
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What do you think of this one?

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The Charge

"Men have such funny fantasies, you know?"�Suzy (Sandra Milo)

Opening Statement

In a maze of mirrors, Juliet (Federico Fellini's real-life spouse Giulietta Masina) tries on dresses and wigs as if she is assembling her very self. She hopes to impress her husband on their anniversary. But her husband Giorgio (Mario Pisu), caring little for privacy, invites their crazy friends, including the flamboyant psychic Genius, who is invited to "read Juliet's vibes."

From that night forward, Juliet sees ghosts everywhere. As she is tempted by romance�and suspects her own husband of an affair�she is haunted. Has the spirit world opened up to her, or is it all merely a reflection of her own sexual anxiety?

The Evidence

Juliet of the Spirits is a turning point for Federico Fellini for more reasons than that it was his first feature in color. Certainly, the color is important: Fellini turns his circus dreams into pure sensation, eye-popping brightness that becomes almost tactile, from Genius' plum jacket to the green expanses of the landscape surrounding Juliet's villa. In this regard, Criterion's restoration of Juliet of the Spirits is most welcome, displaying the vibrant hues in remarkable detail. Legend has it that Fellini dropped acid before making this film, but anyone who has seen his masterpiece 8 1/2 can attest that Fellini really did not need any additional boost to hallucinate striking images.

Oddly, Fellini remarks that he was "disappointed" with his LSD experience in a 1966 interview with the BBC called "Familiar Spirits." Included by Criterion as the only real supplement (along with a scratchy trailer made up teasingly of still frames), the 20-minute segment features Fellini discussing the artistic freedom he felt after La Dolce Vita to realize his filmic visions (and order women around!), leading to his breakthrough in 8 1/2. While the camera seems to focus a lot on his manic hand gestures, Fellini chats about his use of improvisation and his questions about the nature of reality. But the real secrets to Fellini's films are never discussed, perhaps because the films speak for themselves. Fellini's obsession with artificiality, ghosts, shifting sexual identity�and particularly the battle between lust and spirituality (and its almost Freudian connection to childhood in his films)�these themes play out in the visual carnival of Fellini's personal dreamscape, even when the protagonist resembles a woman.

Consider Juliet's recurring vision of her grandfather's seduction at the hands of a circus ing�nue (played by Sandra Milo, who pops up repeatedly in the film as the embodiment of female sexuality under various names). The carnival atmosphere begins to resemble what can only be described as Fellini's revenge on Von Sternberg's The Blue Angel, with Juliet's almost rabbinical grandfather, symbol of male sexual repression, struggling with the pure feminine. But all this libido runs counter to Juliet's other dreams: of herself as Joan of Arc, suffering spiritual torment for her desires.

Love and religion. If all this sounds familiar to Fellini watchers, it should be. If Juliet of the Spirits has one key failing, in the wake of the brilliant 8 1/2, in which the director becomes his own subject and explores the psychological underpinnings of his art, it is that Juliet merely repackages 8 1/2 from a woman's perspective. Or, let me rephrase that: it repackages 8 1/2 from what Fellini thinks is a woman's perspective. The key here is casting. Placing his own wife Giulietta Masina in the lead (and sometime mistress Sandra Milo as the seductress), Fellini stages his own psychological struggles in a roman � clef in drag. We learn no real insight into female psychology, because Fellini is not really exploring any view of the world but his own. Perhaps the real Giulietta is aware of this: her cryptic smile throughout the film is like the Mona Lisa. It only reminds us that we know more about the artist than his subject. Compare this to Fellini's fellow post-neorealist Antonioni (in a film like L'Avventura), where female characters are sharply defined. But in Fellini's world, characters, especially women, become types, manifestations of the artist's dream landscape. Fellini gives us the oversexed aging artist, the debauched rich girl, the gullible fashion maven, and plenty of nuns and wide-eyed children. Whether ghosts or mortals, they all seem projections of Juliet's struggle between lust and spirituality, formed in childhood and aggravated by jealousy over her husband's deceit. We are always inside Fellini's head in Juliet of the Spirits, even when the film pretends to be inside Juliet's.

But that is always what you get with a Fellini film. If you are willing to play that game, then Juliet plays it fairly well, though not as sublime as its predecessor 8 1/2 or as exorbitantly as its descendent Satyricon. But it has its share of brilliant set pieces. In one memorable sequence, Juliet visits the villa of her friend Suzy (Sandra Milo, again). Suzy, clad like a pop-art Mephisto in a nylon batwing collar (the bizarre nylon fashions in the film are so instrumental that Fellini notes them in the opening credits), tempts Juliet with images of exotic vampirism and sexual release. Her house, complete with a post-coital waterslide from bed to swimming pool, is intended to "simulate the air of a brothel," if perhaps that brothel were designed by Oscar Wilde and Burt Bacharach. The imagery is stunning, but once it is over, we might feel that Juliet was right to flee from there after all: getting so deeply inside Fellini's sexual fantasies of libidinous women gets to be too much. Especially if we have seen it before.

Closing Statement

From Juliet of the Spirits onward, Fellini's films would become increasingly self-indulgent. Juliet succeeds when it operates in full-bore hysterical mode, throwing everything but the kitchen sink on screen in an effort to impress us with its remarkable visual composition. In that area, Fellini has few equals: nobody can capture dreaming like he can. But when the film tries to develop Juliet as a human being, a psychological construct, we are always painfully reminded by that Mona-Lisa smile that we are really watching Fellini's own obsessions and we are learning nothing new about them. Criterion has done a commendable job presenting this visual masterpiece, but the lack of a commentary track and the inclusion of little in the way of supplemental material suggests that even they do not quite know where to put Juliet in the Fellini canon.

The Verdict

Federico Fellini is ordered to undergo therapy. Criterion is released for its fine restoration, but is admonished by this court for the lack of extras.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 3:48 pm 
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One of the reviewer's main criticisms seem to be that Juliet of the Spirits is an extension of many of the things Fellini had begun to do in 8 1/2 but that this just doesn't live up to the greatness of the earlier film. Of course, many directors explore themes and develop techniques across a period of many films. After one greatly successful film viewers tend to go into the director's next film with specific expectations compared to their experience of the previous masterpiece. If these are not met, they join the backlash that often follows a film such as 8 1/2. I believe a similar thing happened to Fellini before with Il Bidone (after La Strada) and later with Casanova (after Amarcord).

Quote:
it repackages 8 1/2 from what Fellini thinks is a woman's perspective.

The characters of Guido and Juliet, and the problems they face, are vastly different.
Quote:
Fellini gives us the oversexed aging artist, the debauched rich girl, the gullible fashion maven, and plenty of nuns and wide-eyed children.

One could write off just about any film with reductionist statements like this.
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We are always inside Fellini's head in Juliet of the Spirits, even when the film pretends to be inside Juliet's.

I don't think I understand this. Fellini conceptualized, wrote and directed a film about a woman. Of course, in some sense, it all sprang from Fellini's imagination, but that doesn't mean that it's not about Juliet or that Giulietta Masina's performance is invalid.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 6:31 pm 
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Gregory wrote:
DVDVerdict wrote:

it repackages 8 1/2 from what Fellini thinks is a woman's perspective.

The characters of Guido and Juliet, and the problems they face, are vastly different.

Not only are they different, Juliet's entirely inverted.

Fundamentally, 8 1/2 is about a man trying to escape from life into dreams; Juliet of the Spirits is about a woman trying to escape from her dreams into life. Both indeed do try to reconcile their desires, but Guido is trying to understand his self or sense of being as needing everyone equally; Juliet, on the other end, is trying to discover a sense of her individual self and gain an autonomy, remove herself from the expectations and sacrifices demanded by everyone around her. Her dreams keep her chained in vicious circles of guilt and repression where she cannot get away. Opposingly, Guido's dreams are the only place he can understand and ultimately reconcile his desires.

Frankly, I can't see it but anything as a misreading to lable this as an extension of 8 1/2. It is very different in its approach to its leads and their unconscious dream worlds. Yes, the two movies are similar, but in an auteurist sense--they do not repeat each other.

I'll also meekly add Juliet is my favourite Fellini movie, something which I've hardly ever tried to defend--why bother. Fun movie at any rate.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 7:11 pm 
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I'd need to sit down with both films again and compare, but, when I saw Juliet recently I too preferred it to 8 1/2 (but I'm by no means a hardcore Fellini fan: can't abide Amarcord or Roma, for example). It's thrilling just to see how Fellini and di Venanzo approach colour, and the Criterion transfer is, to my eyes, utterly ravishing.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 11:00 am 
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The Uk R2 (Nouveaux Pictures) image seems vastly superior! Further comparison and [ur=http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=3628]review at DVD Times on Monday[/url]


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 8:38 pm 
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Here's 3 samples, taken from that review at dvdtimes:
Nouveaux 1st
Criterion 2nd
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 8:50 pm 
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Well, it's interesting to see that it isn't ONLY Ozu films that Criterion botches in terms of color balancing.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 9:21 pm 
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This is a relief! And after all that argy bargy about Criterion's botched Cercle Rouge! And I am delighted to see the Australian R4 edition is taken from the Nouveaux print. While we're having a bad Criterion moment can I add their oherwise gorgeous My Own Private Idaho which is imbued with a golden glow throughout the picture and has been virtually scrubbed clean of its grain. Thank Buddha I kept the LD of this which keeps both the grain and the color balance.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 9:28 pm 
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flixyflox wrote:
This is a relief! And after all that argy bargy about Criterion's botched Cercle Rouge! And I am delighted to see the Australian R4 edition is taken from the Nouveaux print. While we're having a bad Criterion moment can I add their oherwise gorgeous My Own Private Idaho which is imbued with a golden glow throughout the picture and has been virtually scrubbed clean of its grain. Thank Buddha I kept the LD of this which keeps both the grain and the color balance.


Hey flixy, I wasn't sure if the R4 was from the Nouveaux, at michaeldvd.com.au they claimed it was taken from the same source as the Criterion. They didn't mention any real differences.
Might get it now then.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 9:35 pm 
MichaelDVD reviewers do make unintentional errors quite frequently so don't believe everything you read there. It is a good informative site however. Read the review of the Polanski box set and compare the below standard Oz version to the better UK version. No comparison. It's good to have this sort of info when considering a purchase. If you can live without the extra on JULIET then bypass the CC version.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2005 10:26 pm 
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Yes agree. I read the Michael review and thought twice but rented the disc and it is definitely the brighter Nouveaux image.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2005 11:30 pm 
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Daniel P there is a review of the Nouveaux R2 I Vitelloni up at DVD Times by Noel Meaghey who also reviews Juliet and once again I am tempted to think the R4 Umbrella Vitelloni is also a port of the Nouveaux (and not the Criterion). Has anyone hazarded an email to Shock who now control Umbrella distribution and confirm this? (I can never seem to get a reply from the Umbrella people.)


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2005 2:04 am 
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Flixyflox, I haven't seen the Umbrella release, but again the Nouveaux release looks superior to the CC. Umbrella never return my emails either... I'll try again.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 6:48 am 
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This is interesting. Also there is a review of I Vitelloni on DVD Times which compares with the Criterion and says that the Nouveaux disc is also brighter in this case.

I was wondering whether this has anything to do with the issue mentioned in the Masters of Cinema article relating to Onibaba where they show that the Criterion disc has a wider range and goes into "super blacks":

Quote:
IMAGE BRIGHTNESS AND CONTRAST
As mentioned in our introduction, the first and last frames of our two image sequences are "black." Just how black are they? An analysis of pixel values within these film frames (excluding the top and bottom black bars) reveals that the Criterion sits at solid black, with a pixel value of 0 (zero) at all pixels within the frame. The corresponding Asmik Ace frames have a mean pixel value of 19 (nineteen). As mentioned above, the grayscale used in this comparison is 8 bits, i.e., 256 levels (0–255). The Criterion black level is thus at the 0% level, while the Asmik Ace black level sits at 7.5% of full range (much too high). Black level is also referred to as pedestal or setup — more on that later. .

. . .Notwithstanding severe cropping and crushed whites, as far as image quality is concerned the Criterion disc is the preferred disc. Its dynamic range is far superior to that of the Asmik Ace disc. The main problem with the latter disc is its high setup. It is exactly this high setup that is the real reason behind the erroneous statements seen in several fora to the effect that "the Criterion is darker than the Asmik Ace." Let us have a closer look at the issue of setup.

In Europe and Asia, analog video's blacks sit at zero voltage (0 mV PAL, 0 IRE NTSC). North American analog video has — for historical reasons having to do with imperfections in TV sets on which video was intended to be watched — its black level raised about 7.5% from the zero-voltage black level used elsewhere in the world. This is what is referred to as 7.5 IRE pedestal or setup. (Black level for NTSC was originally 0 IRE but had to be changed to 7.5 IRE when color was introduced. Eventually 7.5 IRE was no longer necessary, but the standard was never changed back to 0 IRE, with the exception of Japan which reverted to 0 IRE in the early 1990s.)

So, Japanese DVD players add no setup and American players add 7.5 IRE of setup. It is important to note that setup exists only in the analog world and has no relationship to DVD Video as an encoding scheme or as a disc format. No properly-recorded digital component format includes setup. Most DVDs are mastered, and indeed should be mastered, for 0 IRE. (Note that in our above comparison we ran transcode directly on the VOB files themselves, resulting in a truly objective picture of the facts, independent of any player-introduced setup or other idiosyncrasies).

In the case of the Asmik Ace Onibaba (and several other R2 Japan discs we have come across), the image — as digitally encoded on the disc — has for some odd reason had 7.5 IRE setup already added. This is not a good thing, as it is the responsibility of the analog output of the DVD player to add setup where appropriate. North American DVD players are, as already implied, adjusted from the factory to add 7.5 IRE on its analog output by default. When playing back the Asmik Ace disc on such a player, the "player setup" is thus added to the already "ingrained" setup, yielding a total of 15 IRE with a resulting lack of deep blacks and and limited dynamic range. Fortunately, some players have a menu option (or a small switch at the back of the unit) that will allow one to switch off setup on the analog output. This menu option (or switch) needs to be manually set to "0 IRE" or "no setup" when watching Asmik Ace's Onibaba. Don't forget to switch it back to its default setting (IRE 7.5) before popping in the Criterion disc (and most other DVDs, for that matter). As an aside: Even in the case of a DVD correctly mastered for 0 IRE, setting a DVD player to output 0 IRE can in some cases result in additional detail in the blacks. However, not every display device can handle 0 IRE properly, and those that can do require proper calibration — they should also have a 10-bit video processor.

Finally we note that it is only thanks to the existence of the DeCSS algorithm that we were able to perform an intelligent assessment of the quality of a product and thusly inform the potential customer before he/she parts with hard-earned money. Yet another reason why consumers should call for a ban on DVD encryption.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 11:45 pm 
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We need a geek to translate all of that but I think this part means the old NTSC "deeper than black" was particular to analogue recording and transmission, viz:

"In the case of the Asmik Ace Onibaba (and several other R2 Japan discs we have come across), the image — as digitally encoded on the disc — has for some odd reason had 7.5 IRE setup already added. This is not a good thing, as it is the responsibility of the analog output of the DVD player to add setup where appropriate. North American DVD players are, as already implied, adjusted from the factory to add 7.5 IRE on its analog output by default. When playing back the Asmik Ace disc on such a player, the "player setup" is thus added to the already "ingrained" setup, yielding a total of 15 IRE with a resulting lack of deep blacks and and limited dynamic range. Fortunately, some players have a menu option (or a small switch at the back of the unit) that will allow one to switch off setup on the analog output. This menu option (or switch) needs to be manually set to "0 IRE" or "no setup" when watching Asmik Ace's Onibaba. Don't forget to switch it back to its default setting (IRE 7.5) before popping in the Criterion disc (and most other DVDs, for that matter). As an aside: Even in the case of a DVD correctly mastered for 0 IRE, setting a DVD player to output 0 IRE can in some cases result in additional detail in the blacks. However, not every display device can handle 0 IRE properly, and those that can do require proper calibration — they should also have a 10-bit video processor. "

Certainly this problem of overly dark transfers is limited to only a few Criterion titles, and I notice the color balances on the odd color titles are also somewhat different. Surely it can only be from their source material?


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 2:20 pm 
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Since I know several members here own the R4 Umbrella edition without having raised any complaints I suppose I must have had a bad struck of luck with my copy, which is utterly unwatchable due to some crazy stuttering whenever the camera is moving (as if someone was hiding behind my couch pressing the pause and play buttons repeatedly).

What worries me though is the possibility that the eBay seller that I bought it from is stocking a faulty batch and will just send another bastard. Or perhaps I'd contact Umbrella instead to get a replacement, which would improve my odds on getting a faultless copy.

What'd you advice me to do?


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 3:24 pm 

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I never picked up the Nouveaux disc, and looking back again at the captures I'm not sure I want to.

First, can anyone establish that the cooler, bluer color timing is in fact the intended look?

Second - and leaving aside the black levels to concentrate on the white levels - does the obvious contrast boosting of the Nouveaux not bothersome to any of you? I mean, even the weave of Giulietta's hat is completely blown out!


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 12:00 am 
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I've just seen this today, and I may have to see it again. It reminds me of 8 1/2 in that it's a little frustrating, a little over-the-top, and a lot wonderful. One main issue I have with it is that it seems to wander a bit, and I had a little trouble keeping track of what exactly the point of the movie was as it moved along, however, Fellini films stand up very well to second third and so on viewings. They're almost made to be seen several times.

The colors were incredibly vibrant. It felt a little like The Wizard Of Oz at times.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 5:17 pm 
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I've always loved this film, but with time I've come to consider it Fellini's greatest after and La Dolce Vita. It also in many ways signifies his peak as a film director, I believe, and he only reached similar heights one more time, with Amarcord in 1974.

I just read a good, rather positive review of Juliet of the Spirits by Harlan Ellison (written around the time of the film's release, published in his book of film reviews, Watching), and he aptly compares this film's images to that of Hieronymus Bosch.

I'd say it's up there with Gone With the Wind, Black Narcissus and The Conformist as one of the most breathtaking color films in cinema.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 6:02 pm 
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This is probably the most delightful ghost story ever filmed.


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PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2009 9:21 pm 
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Dylan wrote:
I've always loved this film, but with time I've come to consider it Fellini's greatest after and La Dolce Vita. It also in many ways signifies his peak as a film director, I believe, and he only reached similar heights one more time, with Amarcord in 1974.

I just read a good, rather positive review of Juliet of the Spirits by Harlan Ellison (written around the time of the film's release, published in his book of film reviews, Watching), and he aptly compares this film's images to that of Hieronymus Bosch.

I'd say it's up there with Gone With the Wind, Black Narcissus and The Conformist as one of the most breathtaking color films in cinema.

While I prefer Masina's performance and the films La Strada and Nights of Cabiria, I saw this today and absolutely loved it. I agree too that Amarcord would the last film in which Fellini reached heights of mastery after Juliet.

I will have to watch this again, but the use of color is definitely engrossing throughout, especially at Suzy's place. Interestingly enough I watched Paranoid Park a couple nights ago, and realized there was some music from Amarcord in it, but the majority of it is stolen from Juliet.

However a question to those who have seen this multiple times, are we supposed to imply that Juliets husband was leaving for good? Thats what I took when he said he would call in couple of days, and be gone a couple days as well that his mail would be set aside. And Juliet commented on the fact this was the first time he had packed his own luggage.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 12:17 pm 
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Saw "Juliet of the Spirits" a couple of weeks ago for the first time (thank you NYC Public Library). On repeat viewing this might grow on me because, despite an unending parade of stunning visuals (and in color to boot, a then-first for Fellini) "Juliet of the Spirits" left me mostly cold. My main beef is with the subdued performance maestro Fellini squeezes out of his leading lady/wife Giulietta Masina. Having just recently seen "Nights of Cabiria" and "8 1/2" (both of which I loved) it was tough to see the barely-repressed bundle of energy/joy that Masina possesses be paraded though this flick with a sour, detached, pained and saddened (sometimes all four at once) look in her face as her housewife character confronts the reality of Mario Pisu's infidelity. I'm not saying that Masina is a bad actress (far from it; between "Cabiria" and "Juliet..." the woman showed she had range to spare) but that it's tough to see her husband use her as a straight man to the weird sights (a treehouse/sex club suspended in the air), grotesque characters/caricatures (psychics, private investigators dressed as clergymen, Sandra Milo in multiple roles, etc.) and absurd situations (Suzy's party/sexual shopping spree) Fellini conjures up to soothe his then-newfound fancy for visual storytelling. The movie is borderline-catatonic until Giulietta visits Suzy's home 75 minutes into the flick (except for an earlier brief scene of Suzy in the beach) but Nino Rota keeps the proceedings humming along with another playfully majestic score. Funny how, before I started watching Fellini movies a couple of years back, I thought of Rota as 'The Godfather' composer guy. Now that I'm into his groove there's more to Nino's musical skills than I imagined.

On first sight maybe I'm just not mentally prepared for "Juliet of the Spirits." It just feels unforgivable to reduce Giulietta Masina to the uncharacteristic role of passive/reactive spectator to the nightmarish visions inside her head. I can totally picture Cabiria walking up to the demons Giulietta sees in this flick and kicking/stomping their asses out of the house. :P Maybe next time. :-"


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:43 pm 
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dad1153 wrote:
My main beef is with the subdued performance maestro Fellini squeezes out of his leading lady/wife Giulietta Masina.

Unfortunately, it has to be that way. The movie is about how Juliette liberates herself from her deep, confining repressions. Wouldn't make much sense if she acted like a free-spirit. I'm surprised this aspect annoyed you instead of contributing to the film's pathos.

I still can't figure out why I'm the only one who thinks this Fellini's best movie.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:54 pm 
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Mr_sausage wrote:
I still can't figure out why I'm the only one who thinks this Fellini's best movie.

Me either, it's certainly no Cabiria, 8 1/2,or Amarcord. But it's in his top 5.


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