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  Juliet of the Spirits Dream Life
Year: 1965
Director: Federico Fellini
Stars: Giulietta Masina, Sandra Milo, Mario Pisu, Valentina Cortese, Valeska Gert, José Luis de Villalonga, Friedrich von Ledebur, Caterina Boratto, Lou Gilbert, Silvana Jachino, Milena Vukotic, Fred Williams, Dany Paris, Anne Francine, Sylva Koscina
Genre: Drama, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Rich housewife Giulietta (Guilietta Masina) is busying herself to prepare for her husband's return, because today is their wedding anniversary. She can't decide on what to wear, and her maids are in a tizzy trying to sort her out for the evening. When husband, Giorgio (Mario Pisu) arrives, he wonders why the house is in darkness and lit only by candles, but he's only joking, and what could have been an intimate dinner between the two of them turns into a full blown dinner party as he has brought their friends with him to celebrate. One of those acquaintances is Valentina (Valentina Cortese) who has invited a spiritualist along, and so it is that events take a strange, ghostly turn for Giulietta...

A feast for the eyes, Juliet of the Spirits, or Giulietta degli Spiriti to give the film its original title, was writer-director Federico Fellini's first film in colour, and he takes full advantage of his new pallette. However, the story seems to take second place to the visual extravaganza, as Masina (who was famously Fellini's wife) wanders through sumptuous and exotic tableaux, looking for all the world like a fish out of water rather than a woman whose fantasy life is invading her real one. The mystery of whether Giorgio is having an affair or not is what preoccupies her, but it's not really much of a mystery as the answer is obvious.

That's not to say Fellini neglects the enigmatic side of things, as the whole work resembles an intricate puzzle box made up of his main character's personality. When the dinner party seance begins, Giulietta is surprised to discover the "contacting the other side" business really works, and they talk to a table rapping spirit named Iris who becomes her companion. It seems as though her suspicions about her husband have sparked off this interest from Iris, and now Giulietta's experiences will grow more and more surreal and difficult to fathom.

When Giulietta visits the beach with her family, her doctor mocks her new found interest in the supernatural, but she isn't so sure, especially when she nods off and sees a startling vision of a ship emerging from the waves. Her relationship with her family makes it apparent that she has been put upon since childhood, so perhaps it is time to assert herself? She certainly sticks out as the odd one out amongst all the glamour; Valentina takes her along to see a hermaphrodite spiritual leader, but is taken aback when it is Giulietta instead of herself who is admittted into the inner sanctum. The man-woman tells her to use her body to try and please her husband more, but she is not impressed by this advice.

Despite all the adornments, as Juliet of the Spirits draws on it looks increasingly like a banal domestic drama decked out like a Christmas tree. Should Giulietta stay with her husband even if he is having an affair? As we don't see enough of him to know what attracted her to him it's difficult to tell what he has to offer her apart from security and a big house. Then there's the time when Giulietta had to portray a martyr in a religious play when she was a little girl, which has haunted her through the years. She must come to terms with her feelings of inadequacy before she can achieve independence and happiness, would appear to be the message. In the meantime, you can appreciate the overactive imagination of Fellini as he fills the screen with elaborate costumes and bizarre visions, which are undeniably arresting and provide the most stimulating reason to watch. Great music by Nino Rota.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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