Amelia and Pippo are reunited after several decades to perform their old music-hall act (imitating Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) on a TV variety show. It's both a touchingly nostalgic ... See full summary »
In 1914, a luxury ship leaves Italy in order to scatter the ashes of a famous opera singer. A lovable bumbling journalist chronicles the voyage and meets the singer's many eccentric friends and admirers.
Cinecitta, the huge movie studio outside Rome, is 50 years old and Fellini is interviewed by a Japanese TV crew about the films he has made there over the years as he begins production on ... See full summary »
Juliet lives in a beautiful house by the ocean. Her sisters, and especially her Mother overshadow her with their beauty. She is a spiritual, superstitious and naive woman. She visits a psychic seer who tells her she must follow the sex trade in order to be happy. Not long after she meets her eccentric and sexy neighbour, Suzy, who, by all counts appears to be a high class prostitute and encourages Juilet into sexual acts which make her guilty and nervous. A rare night when her husband is at home she wakes up to catch him talking to another woman on the phone. He calls out the name "Gabriella" while sleeping, but when she questions him he lies his way out of it. She finds out who Gabriella is and fears her husband will leave her. Juliet begins having visions who accuse and terrorize her. The pinnacle of the visions comes at the end where it is implied she realizes she would be better off without her husband and is ultimately emotionally emancipated. Written by
Jose owns one of the biggest bull farms. Sometimes at night this madman puts on his own bullfight.
What courage! Isn't it dangerous?
No, signora, it's poetry. Poetry is never dangerous. My best friends are toreadors. They compose music, write verse, and abhor blood.
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I do not like Federico Fellini. Yes, I know for a pretentious, overly critical self-described film fanatic, saying I don't like a director who is on the shortlist for "best ever," is blasphemous. Yes I'm aware his two dozen or so movies have been plastered all over "Sights and Sounds Magazine" for over half a century and yes I know that his personal brand of self- actualizing, self-critical, self-aggrandizing films bring a diversity to the art form social commentators love to point out, and pat themselves on the back for. But regardless of the praise, regardless of the supposed honesty behind his garish pictures, behind all the Criterion Collection essays written by men and women I respect, I still cannot ignore the fact that on a deeply emotional level I am repulsed by his oeuvre.
Juliet of the Spirits is a late-period work of Fellini's and the first color film he has ever directed. The film starts with Giulietta (Masina) preparing for her anniversary with her oppressive and philandering husband Giorgio (Pisu). The anniversary turns into a party promptly followed by a seance spearheaded by a stodgy Medium (von Ledebur) and her wanton neighbor Valentina (Cortese). After the party, Giulietta discovers the doors to the spirit world have all been opened. Spirits and Neapolitan friends alike push Giulietta to indulge in her inner desires and basically let loose in a lavish, kaleidoscopic, and very loud vision of a runaway id slowly tearing itself apart.
Federico Fellini is famous for his, on occasion, stifling superstition; often having mediums and palm-readers on set to give him advice on everything from his productions to his rocky personal relationship with his wife Giulietta Masina. Much like La Strada (1954), 8 1/2 (1963) and (basically insert any of his films here), there are constant callbacks to the circus; a staple of his formative years. There are also androgynous characters hinting at the man's ambiguous sexuality and gaudy set design meant to address Fellini's discombobulated psyche.
How can I make these assumptions about the director? Because it's so painfully obvious not just in the first fifteen minutes of Juliet of the Spirits but in every single film the director has ever put his name on starting with La Dolce Vita (1960). Fellini seems to have no interest in addressing character, plot, societal synergy, personal growth, politics or really anything other than the inner thoughts plaguing him at the time. Yet unlike the neurotic asides of Woody Allen or the austere fatalism of Ingmar Bergman, Fellini seems to never have anything particularly interesting to say. He lives purely inside his imagination and likes to let the camera linger on lavish boudoirs, delirious orgies and Masina's micro-expressions.
This exercise in cinematic "honesty" proves very gratifying to a certain class of critic who like to study film form but don't want to work too hard in their analysis. Much like the mansion that Giulietta and Giorgio call home, each shot is caked with filigree so concentrated in making a literate audience swoon, but really only being an elaborate, sumptuous facade signifying...what exactly? That deep down we're all we're all carnal but because we also like pretty things we're better than the lower creatures? Nothing makes sense so just strap in and enjoy the ride? Thanks for the tip...only one and a half more hours to go.
I will give Fellini credit for trying to escape the the aesthetic orthodox of Italian Neo-Realism. But while contemporaries like De Sica, Germi and Risi evolved by using broad comedy as a jumping-off point for social commentary, Fellini implodes into a solipsistic void of vapid clap-trap. He's like the hipster of the Neo-Realist counter-movement; he knows what he doesn't want but has no idea what he's really trying to say. Thus, like his character Giudizio in Amarcord (1973) he spouts nonsense loudly and often with the cinematic equivalent of a bullhorn. Contemporary critics see this barking and assume it must mean something, I say the man hasn't had anything important to say since 1957.
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