I was--like I have been while watching other foriegn films--put off initially by the seemingly incongruous little snippets of music and visuals. I mean, couldn't those Europeans make a movie that flowed better? Jeez! I open my mind, watched it a few times and came to these conclusions. First, Giulietta, the actress, must have been a bit off to have done this apparently semi-real story abouat a middle aged woman married to a famous director who she suspects is having an affair. I mean, she was married to Fellini when this was produced. Second, albeit the digital reprocessing has made the cinema more vivid and the costuming more striking, the women more sexier, it showed it's date. When Juliet goes to confront the lady about l'affair, she should have kick the B*'s tail. That probably would have been the response for a character in a current day movie. Third, in an odd sort of way, it all but helps a more modern Eyes Wide Open to make some kind of sense. I mean, who can say how we will respond when a whiff of infidelity comes into our relationships, our lives? Juliet's response were these visions. Some of these were from her far away youth. Some just were pure Fellini bacchanalia. Tom Cruise in Eyes was thinking well, if my wife can *think* it, well, I can just *do* it and be one up on her. It starts for Tom as 'getting even', but it corrodes into something else that he had no control over. (I always say we are forever one step from a huge disaster and we don't know it....) We see Juliet almost giving into her urges with the pretty Latin kid who she meets at her neighbor's...but something just doesn't feel right.
And so, that's what this film is about. What we go thru when we suspect something or hear some painful news. We have the brilliant Guilietta Masina and the surreal Fellini to thank for giving these emotions some sort of form..
Giulietta Masina is a very great actress, it is just that there wasn't much material for her to work with. It is too bad she hitched her wagon to husband Fellini's star her entire career, because if she were just in a few movies with plots, character development and finely crafted dialogue, we could have discovered the full range of her talent.
In 1965, when this movie came out, there weren't so many movies about a woman's "midlife crisis" and her quest for "fulfillment"; By now this plot has become a cliche. As far as the story line goes, "Juliet of the Spirits" has got to rank among the worst, even losing out to the B-movies and straight-to-video films that are grist for the mill on Lifetime and The Oprah Channel.
And that is really a shame, because this is one of the most gorgeously filmed movies I've ever seen. Director of Photography Gianni di Venanzo's use of Technicolor is breathtakingly fascinating for its sumptuous use of warmth and its balance of colors and use of shocking hues. It rivals movies such as "Fantasia" and "Vertigo" for its artistic *visual* excellence.
Yet, this movie taken as a whole is rambling, unfocused and pretentious in a genre that is not too difficult to master. Some call Fellini's movies "surrealistic," and I have no argument with that. Perhaps my bourgeoise temperament lacks the patience to put up with it in two-hour-long doses. I prefer my surrealism in visual stills from Dali, Man Ray, Magritte.
The irony of it is that the best movie of the "woman finding herself" genre -- "Shirley Valentine", directed by Lewis Gilbert -- is filmed so dryly that it borders on incompetence. Imagine what a movie that would have made were the script put into the hands of di Venanzo and Fellini with a soundtrack by the great Nino Rota.
Altogether, viewing "Juliet of the Spirits" can be a pleasant experience, so long as one is concerned with camera work, editing, color timing and music.