Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

My Photo
Location: milwaukee, wi

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Who the Hell Is Juliette? (Carlos Marcovich, 1997)

Who the Hell is Juliette? is one of the most entertaining, beautiful, poetic documentaries I've ever seen. And the funny thing is, I'm not even sure how truthful it is. But unlike Zoo, which also mixed drama with documentary, Carlos Marcovich's docudrama never felt as if it was missing pieces, or covering up the unsavory bits of life with its drama. To the contrary, actually. Juliet (or Yuliet in Spanish, as she insists in the first shot - the first introduction we get to Juliet shows her as sassy, yet knowledgeable about who she is and what she wants, an impression that lasts throughout the film) is a 16-year-old girl living in Havana, who director Marcovich met on the set of a Mexican music video (I think - although Marcovich involves himself in the plot somewhat, the origin of his interest is still relatively unknown) and who enchanted him. It's not hard to see why Marcovich became fascinated with Juliet; although she's had a hard-scrabble life - her father abandoned her family before Juliet could even make any memories of him, her mother, soon after, killed herself by burning herself alive, and she on occasion makes money by whoring herself out to tourists for $1 - Juliet is witty, snappy, and full of life. She's completely endearing, even when she's talking about her baby cousin's hard-on.

The loose narrative in the film centers around Juliet and Fabiola, a gorgeous Mexican model who Juliet worked with on said music video. Juliet was found on the street and hired because she looked so much like Fabiola, and in the video, the two play sisters. From that time on, they developed a sisterly bond that, even though we don't see much interaction between the two girls during the film, is clearly very strong, stronger even than most blood ties both girls have. Fabiola might seem to have a much better life than Juliet; she travels to New York City for modelling jobs, and seems to have a very glamourous life. But Marcovich, through the first-personal confessional-esque shots of both girls, reveals some deeper similarities, most importantly that both were abandoned by their fathers and have issues with men.

As interesting as the story of these two girls' lives are (Juliet's story gets about 70% of the screen time, Fabiola's, 30%), Marcovich inserts fiction randomly into the movie. In fact, I'm not even sure how much of this is real, or how much is fake. From Havanese Marcovich inserts saying other people's lines (most memorably, a young boy who introduces himself at the beginning as the one we should come to when we are unsure of something) to breaking the fourth wall and showing the boom mic operator, keeping in the times when the subjects talk to him, and even one scene where he seems to be telling Fabiola what to say in the middle of a very personal speech about her sexuality versus Juliet's. There are scenes where Juliette is on the phone, purportedly with her father, but we never see who is on the other end. Who is she talking to? Is it anyone at all? But instead of enraging me, these decisions thoroughly intrigued me. What is the difference between fact and fiction in our lives? If we say something is true, what makes it untrue? Juliet's constant "confusing" of the words actual (real) and actuar (to perform) is incredibly clever and thought-provoking.

Maybe what I've written about the film has you scratching your head. Who the Hell is Juliette? had me scratching mine, but in the best possible way. Not only is it a compelling story and a interesting meditation on fact and fiction, it has several of the most genuinely moving scenes I can remember. When Juliette tells the modeling agency that she wants fame and fortune, only in Havana and not Mexico City, it's a matter-of-fact statement on the importance of having a home, one that particularly struck me. And I won't even start on the scene when Juliette and her father finally meet face-to-face. The only thing that disappointed me about the new Facets DVD is the "10 Years Later" featurette - only a few words from Juliette and none from Fabiola, it's mostly a vanity piece on Marcovich's part. So maybe he's right when he says that second parts are never any good. I recommend this film as whole-heartedly as I have any film on this blog.


Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

Comments on "Who the Hell Is Juliette? (Carlos Marcovich, 1997)"


post a comment