Julieta the film and Julieta the woman are as close as one could get to being a single entity. I suppose this must happen to various extents in any film concerned with the psychological climate of a single, eponymous character. But to quite a heightened and claustrophobic extent, Julieta, more than most seems to exist not simply as a psychic profile of a woman, but that the character exists as a film-body.
By this I mean her tragedies are not merely documented – Julieta sees to that herself in writing – but embodied. A strange thing for a film to succeed at: it seems less concerned with narrative, which can take care of itself, and more with the experiential. Everything is scented with a very quiet psychedelia.
Almodovar exercises something within himself far more conscientious than many directors. Where some might record and then ornament with flourishes of manipulation, Almodovar is compassionate and sincere. It is not very often that one senses the author pitying what he has made, and wishing it back into his pen. One can create a pitiful character with ease, but it is rare to feel the wrench in the heart of the director as he conducts her torment.
It is often said that directors direct with subjectivity, thereupon their subject is themselves. This film though is wet with subjectivity, but it is the subjectivity of someone else. Perhaps this is down to Almodovar’s great sensitivity – I mean this quite literally. He caters so thoughtfully to each element of the body, but always just too delicately to perceive, so it becomes felt. The colours are, as always, arranged wonderfully. Music swells with but never bursts. Few filmmakers remember the phenomenon of cinema, particularly the Americans who have so often assumed a reductive attitude toward the medium, treating the screen as a glorified blackboard onto which things are simply written and immediately grasped.
I wonder whether this has anything to do a greater sensitivity in Europe to where cinema sits in relation to painting. Paintings play a great part in this film. Almodovar has the same painter’s motive as Antonioni (note how they both frequently set characters against great expanses of flat wall); that not so much of illusion but of truth. Perhaps this is the American short-coming, to tend only to cinema’s great illusion.
This painter’s consciousness is particularly crucial to the success of Julieta, for it is a memory. It takes the form of a flashback edging toward the present day. The past is not made of visual residue, but of experiential sensation. Just as a painting exists in the past, for painting, even a still life, is created from memory. The present ‘moment’ is no rich currency, but it is the currency of memory. So Almodovar must weave these precious senses into something that does not feel like a collage of instances. So he makes a film that remembers a saturated, swollen world.
Drama, World Cinema | Spain, 2016 | 15 | 9th January 2017 (UK)| Pathe UK |Dir: Pedro Almodóvar |Emma Suárez, Adriana Ugarte, Daniel Grao | Buy:Julieta [DVD]