Sunday, April 28, 2013


I saw again one of my favorite movies, Julia, last night.  It was made in 1977 and stars Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jason Robards.  Fonda plays Lillian Hellman to Robards' Dashiell Hammett.  Redgrave is lovely as Hellman's friend Julia.  Maximillian Schell and Meryl Streep (her first film part) have small roles.

Great, true story.  Everything moves back and forth through time.  Lillian and Julia are young school friends, Julia quite wealthy in terms of money but with a paucity of family life.  Lillian is taken with her, and reveres her free spirit and brilliance.  It's 1934 when the film opens, and Lillian is trying to complete her first play.  Julia is in medical school in Cambridge, looking forward to possibly working with Freud.  A good story, of friendship and love, war and peace, action and inaction.

What I love about it also, as I did when I first saw it, are the settings.  Gorgeously filmed, it takes you from a perfect Cape Cod cabin - weathered shingles, privacy, messy but comfortable interior - to a veritable castle just outside NYC where Julia and her very staid grandparents' reside at times.  The room in which the girls play word games and laugh and talk about the future is a child's dream of a bedroom, before Pottery Barn came along.

This is contrasted by the hell that was overtaking Europe at that time.  Lillian goes to write in London, then to Austria - the grayness and damp is palpable.  Scenes, sets - all of which make the movie come alive.  The opening and ending - an old woman sitting in a boat (Lillian Hellman herself, actually) - is a memorable portrait.

I take from this how tied we are to where we are.  The Hellman and Hammett of the Cape are vastly different from the restaurants of NYC or Parisian hotels.  But each as beautiful in their own way.