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From "Pentimento," the memoirs of late playwright Lillian Hellman, JULIA covers those years in the 1930s when Lillian attained fame with the production of her first play "The Childrens' Hour" on Broadway. Not surprisingly, it centers on Lillian's relationship with her lifelong friend, Julia. It is a relationship that goes beyond mere acquaintance and one for which the word "love" seems appropriate. While Julia attends the University in Vienna, studying with such luminaries as Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein, Lillian suffers through revisions of her play with her mentor and sometimes lover Dashiel Hammett at a New England beachhouse. After becoming a celebrated playwright, Lillian is invited to a writers conference in Russia. Julia, having taken up the battle against fascism, enlists Lillian en route to smuggle money through Nazi Germany which will assist in the Anti-Fascist cause. It is a dangerous mission especially for a Jewish intellectual on her way to communist Russia. During a... Written by
Mark Fleetwood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The story of Julia is taken from Pentimento the second of three volumes of memoirs by American playwright Lillian Hellman. Hellman who was still alive at the time this film was made surely must have been flattered by what Jane Fonda and the rest of the cast did with an intimate and painful portion of her life.
Lillian Hellman was a radical and unorthodox character in her life and times. She was the first major American writer to bring a lesbian theme to the stage in The Children's Hour. What she gives us in Julia is a look at her life and how she was able to create the characters of Karen and Martha the schoolteachers from The Children's Hour.
In this story Karen and Martha are Jane Fonda as Lillian Hellman and Vanessa Redgrave as her most intimate friend Julia. Both are Jewish, but Redgrave is British and Hellman is American. Their destinies seeming to be fated for togetherness are driven apart as Julia decides to go to university in Vienna to study under Sigmund Freud.
But while Hellman struggles to create a play under the tutelage of lover and mentor Dashiell Hammett as played by Jason Robards, Jr., Julia gets herself involved in the anti-fascist activities in an Austria already preparing for Anschluss. While Hellman is visiting Julia sustains some very serious injuries during a Nazi inspired riot.
As the story continues Hellman meets great acclaim with her first major hit which turns out to be The Children's Hour, but her communications from Julia become more and more infrequent and somewhat bizarre. Then she's asked on another trip to smuggle money into the Third Reich to aid Julia and others fleeing Hitler's tyranny.
Director Fred Zinneman who was also a refugee from the Anschluss of Austria knew his subject well. He successfully transfers his memories and visions of a frightened people with good reason to be frightened. Fonda's American experience doesn't prepare her for this, but as Hellman she adapts to the environment well for her survival. Her budding celebrity no doubt helps insure her survival.
But the one you will remember is Vanessa Redgrave who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as Julia. The last scene of her and Fonda together at a Berlin train stop café is no doubt what won her the Oscar. It will haunt you long after you've seen the film.
Julia won two other Oscars, one for Best Screenplay adapted from another source and Best Supporting Actor for Jason Robards, Jr. as Dashiell Hammett. Sharing sex, literature, and politics wasn't enough for the Hammett/Hellman duo, Robards as Hammett knows well that he runs second as will anyone else in Fonda's life to her lost Julia. But he's secure enough to realize it and enjoy what he has.
Maximilian Schell was also up for Best Supporting Actor in a small, but vital role as an anti-Nazi German who gives cryptic guiding instructions to Fonda on her last visit to Julia. It's through him that the fright of the opposition is seen mostly. Meryl Streep made her screen debut as an upper class snob of a friend that Fonda has and Strepp has a brother in John Glover. Glover specializes in portrayals of truly hateful people on the big and small screen. He confesses a breaking a major taboo to Fonda while drunk and then snickers at her relationship with Redgrave. Jane handles him appropriately.
Julia was also up for a flock of other Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director for Fred Zinneman and Best Actress for Jane Fonda. It's a beautiful and haunting film about Lillian Hellman writing from the heart about a lost love.
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