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Film / Juliet of the Spirits

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Things get pretty trippy.
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Juliet of the Spirits is a 1965 Italian film directed by Federico Fellini and starring his wife and frequent leading lady, Giulietta Masina.

Juliet is a rather neglected middle-aged wife. Her husband Giorgio at the start of the film completely forgets their fifteenth wedding anniversary. The situation grows worse when Giorgio mutters another woman's name in his sleep. Juliet engages an investigator who discovers that sure enough, Giorgio is having an affair with a younger woman, a fashion model. Into this conflict comes Juliet and Giorgio's neighbor, the voluptuous, slutty actress Suzy (Sandra Milo) who urges Juliet to take revenge on her husband by having affairs of her own, and even tries to set her up with some studly young men.

Meanwhile, a psychic who is one of the hangers-on at Juliet and Giorgio's lavish mansion hosts a seance. This seance seems to open a sort of psychic door in Juliet's consciousness, as she spends the rest of the movie having visions of people and things from her past.

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Commonly regarded as a Real Life Writes the Plot work which reflects the marital tensions between Fellini and Masina, as well as Fellini's struggles with his own latent homosexuality.


Tropes:

  • Ambiguous Ending: Throughout the movie, Juliet has chance after chance to loosen up her uptight persona and embrace her sexuality, and time and again, she passes. In the last scene she walks outside her front gate and starts hearing the voices of the spirits, offering to stay with her forever. She then turns right and walks off in to the woods. The End. Fellini interpreted this as Juliet welcoming the spirits into her life, whereupon they became "positive, pleasant beings". Masina for her part interpreted the ending as Juliet being abandoned and alone.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Bhisma the medium. Played by an elderly actress with close-cropped white hair and described as a "man/woman" by Valentina, but otherwise referred to as "he".
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  • Art Imitates Art: One of Juliet's visions is a shot of a nude woman in a clamshell a-la Botticelli's "Birth of Venus".
  • Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Bhisma the medium urges Juliet to do just this, saying "Learn to please your husband" and telling her to wear sexy stockings. Juliet is indignant, saying "Whoring—some advice!"
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: One of the messages of the movie is the unhealthy teachings of the Catholic Church and how they suppress sexuality. This is underscored in the scene where young Juliet is being burned alive in a religious play, only for her angry grandfather to interrupt and forcibly remove her from the performance.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Juliet looks into the camera right before the ending, as the spirits ask if they can stay with her forever.
  • Carpet of Virility: Romolo, one of the random hangers-on at Juliet's mansion, wears a shirt carefully unbuttoned to display his hairy chest.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Juliet is nervously chain-smoking in the morning after her husband uttered another woman's name in his sleep.
  • Dream Sequence: Juliet dozes off at the beach and has a dream where she hauls a barge of horses, and a boat carrying studly warriors, onto the shore.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: Many times throughout the movie, as Juliet's mansion isn't very well lit at night. Jose the bullfighter, whom Juliet is obviously attracted to, is framed this way when he first appears. When Juliet goes to bed while contemplating her husband's infidelity, her face is in shadow except for one strategic beam of light illuminating her eyes. Suzy is framed this way when attempting to get Juliet to have sex at her house.
  • Fanservice Extra: Plenty. Valentina the sculptor has a studly male model who doubles as her boy toy, and is not encumbered by a shirt. One of Juliet's visions has her opening a closet to find a topless woman inside.
  • Flashback: One has Juliet remembering her grandfather running away with a circus dancer. Another has Juliet remembering a religious play at Catholic school, in which she played a saint burned alive.
  • Hallucinations: Juliet's "spirits" start getting more and more present throughout the movie, until by the end she's practically being chased through her house by all the weird things she's seeing.
  • Hong Kong Dub: As throughout Fellini's career, he filmed without synchronized sound and looped in the dialogue in post-production. It's sometimes very obvious, like with the woman speaking English at the public performance by Bhisma the medium.
  • Jump Cut: The editing gets more frantic and choppy as the spirits start showing up more in Juliet's life. One scene has a frowning Juliet at the window as Giorgio lies about his affair, followed by a Jump Cut to a happy Juliet outside greeting Giorgio, followed by a Jump Cut back to unhappy Juliet at the window.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Valentina has a habit of carrying her dog around to some odd places, like the performance of Bhisma the medium.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: An unusual version with two women, as adventurous Ethical Slut Suzy continually urges Juliet to loosen up and get laid, and tries to get her to go skinnydipping, invites her to tryst with a couple of men in Suzy's Treehouse of Fun, and tries to get Juliet to have sex with an androgynously attractive young man at her house.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: "You don't scare me anymore", says Juliet to a stern and scary spirit vision of her mother.
  • Nuns Are Spooky: A recurring Fellini motif, and they sure are spooky in this movie, as the nuns at Juliet's school are faceless and dressed in hooded cloaks like The Grim Reaper.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: In the flashback where Juliet remembers her grandfather running away with a circus dancer, the dancer (also played by Sandra Milo) is wearing a corset.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Juliet's sexually liberated neighbor Suzy has a habit of wearing these.
  • Skinnydipping: Suzy has an indoor pool complete with slide; she shucks off her clothes and slides right in. She urges Juliet to join her but, as usual, Juliet declines.
  • Spooky Séance: Eugenio, a fairly obvious Phony Psychic, hosts a seance at Juliet's home—which results in Juliet actually hearing the voice of a spirit called Iris. This starts the parade of bizarre visions that Juliet sees throughout the film.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: Giorgio mutters the name "Gabriella" in her sleep, which is what causes Juliet to catch on that he's having an affair.
  • Too Important to Walk: Suzy lounges around on the beach in a revealing yellow bikini, but not before her servants carry her to the beach on a litter.
  • Treehouse of Fun: Suzy has a decidedly adult version of one—but it's an actual tree house in the forest, complete with a mechanized rope lift. She entertains lovers there, and urges Juliet to do the same.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Giorgio is having an affair.
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