Saturday, December 13, 2008
Julia; drama, USA, 1977; D: Fred Zinnemann, S: Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Hal Holbrook, Maximilian Schell, Rosemary Murphy, Meryl Streep
The old Lillian is remembering her life; since her childhood, she has been friends with Julia. When Julia goes to study in Vienna in the 1 9 3 0s, she starts writting her about the threat of the Nazi uprising. Meanwhile, Lillian doesn't have any inspiration to be a writer and spends her days on a beachhouse with Dashiell Hammett. She does however visit Julia in hospital after she was injured in a clash, but is surprised when she mysteriously disappears afterwards. Julia contacts her and gives her the assignment to smuggle her money to Berlin, where she could pay to release political prisoners. Lillian succeds, but later on hears Julia was killed.
"Julia" is another film whose sheer amount of awards doesn't seem to match the real quality on the screen. Even though Fred Zinnemann was a master director in some films, here he misses the real point and makes the mistake to make a rather thin melodrama whose first half seems dangerously like a soap opera. The exposition really is laxly presented, or maybe it didn't have that much to ofer, but here and there the great Jason Robards ignites the film with his role as indiffirent writer Dashiell Hammett, who cynically tells the heroine Lillian: "If you can't write, find a job!" Jane Fonda is somehow miscast as Lillian, since she seems rather out of place and forces her performance too much, even though she is a fine actress otherwise. The lifelong friendship between Lillian and Julia has some merits maybe because it's based on Lillian Hellman's autobiographical book "Pentimento", and the movie does eventually become intruiging in the second half, where Lillian is trying to smuggle money for the political prisoners in Third Reich by traveling in a train to Berlin. Some cynical critics may say that the movie was so hyped that it was even enough for Maximilian Schell to eat some eggs and buns to earn himself an Oscar nod for his small role, yet he made a neat impression in the scene where it was agreed upon that he would pass by Lillian at the station and if she would say "Hello" it would mean that she would accept the mission - but if she wouldn't, it would mean she won't accept it, yet Lillian's friends were babbling so much she almost missed her mark and let him walk away. The movie won several awards.