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Vanessa Redgrave is my favorite actress and I have had a crush on her since the mid-60s when I saw her perform opposite David Warner in Morgan.    I make it a point of seeing every film she is in and when asked to see a sneak preview of Letters to Juliet (the Juliet of Romeo and Juliet fame) on Mother’s Day, how could I resist?

Now some might argue that Letters to Juliet  is a chick-flick, but any film set in Verona, Siena and the beautiful landscape of Tuscany can’t be all that bad.   With the exception of the dewey-eyed Vanessa and a cameo appearance by Franco Nero, most of the performances were Hollywood-lite but who cares as long as there is a happy ending.  I certainly didn’t.

The plot – if you can call it that – revolves around a young American girl on a pre-honeymoon trip with her boarish fiance.  While touring Verona, she notices many young women posting letters on the wall underneath Juliet’s balcony.   In much the same way people write to Ann Landers, women of all ages  seek advice from Juliet on “matters of the heart” and appear daily to blanket the wall with their letters.  While some may find this behavior somewhat bizarre since Juliet  has been dead for over 500 years and was only 13 years old when she stabbed herself with Romeo’s dagger, I find the ritual charming.

Each day at dusk the self-appointed secretaries of Juliet take down the letters and retire to a nearby palazzo to answer these letters on behalf of Juliet.  These lovely ladies give hope to these heart-stricken women by sending a hand-written note, no doubt written on Juliet’s engraved stationery.  In fact, the young American woman finds a letter hidden behind a stone written 50 years earlier by Vanessa who asks for Juliet’s advice on whether to settle for a conventional English marriage or run off with a young Italian man with whom she was passionately in love.  I won’t spill any further details.

Now imagine if this lovely ritual could occur in today’s digital society.  I suppose one could Tweet Juliet or become a Facebook Fan if Juliet has a “Fan” or “Like” Page, but it hardly seems the same compared to penning a letter in a small courtyard under the most famous balcony in the world.  I guess today’s techies could leave behind a RW CD or, perhaps, a USB port under the balcony in the hope that some “New Age” secretary would would care enough to send an e-mail.  Alas, I think not.  But imagine how rich our lives would be if a perfect stranger – in the interests of “love” – would simply pen a note and let you know they hear you and wish you well. 

Oh, it’s only a film.  We have little time for romance and passion in today’s world.  How sad.

Richard May
Thérèse Saint Clair

Tags: engraved stationery, Franco Nero, letters to juliet, Siena, stationery, Vanessa Regrave, Verona

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