¿Quién diablos es Juliette?
Review by Matt Bailey
Posted on 11 July 2004
Source 35mm print
Who the hell is Juliette, indeed. For starters, her name is actually Yuliet. But beyond that, let me warn you that if you come to this film seeking the answer to the title question, you might as well leave before it starts.
Yuliet, in reviews of the film, has been described variously as “a teen prostitute,” “an impish 16-year-old prostitute,” “ a seductive 16-year-old prostitute,” and “a child prostitute.” Are you sensing a pattern? Aside from the fact that Yuliet never admits to being a prostitute (only to accepting a few dollars from some unseemly characters), this characterization of Yuliet is tragically reductive. Like most 16-year-old girls, Yuliet is a tightly wound ball of confusion, contradictions, and hormones. She adores her family, yet lives day to day with the loneliness from her abandonment by her father and the consequences of her mother’s horrific death. She worships her friend, Fabiola, a model and (as all models are wont to be) an aspiring actress, but seems to question if that’s really all that life has in store for her. She says that she never wants to leave Havana, but feels restrained by the limitations of life in Havana. Yuliet is a sassy, flighty, insightful, contradictory, coy, often irritating creature, and the same might be said of the film.
Carlos Marcovich is primarily a music video director. In fact, this film is the result of Marcovich’s casting of Fabiola (and subsequently Yuliet) in a music video. While working with Yuliet, Marcovich became fascinated by this girl and simply decided to keep on filming her. The film took nearly two years to complete, and it’s amazing that, in consideration of its subject and content, that the film has any coherence at all. People are introduced in the first part of the film and then dropped until the final reel, no conversation with Yuliet lasts longer than a couple of minutes, and some shots last no longer than a second. It could have been a mess (and some might argue that it is), but it is a testament not only to Marcovich’s skill as a filmmaker but also to the seductive pull of the film’s central subject, Yuliet.
Is this a documentary that wants to be a music video? Is it a music video that wants to be a narrative fiction film? Or perhaps a fiction film that wants to be a documentary? Like the title question, these are questions that really have no answers — at least none provided by the film. It’s best not to think of them — better to just sit back and live in Yuliet’s world for a time.