CÚline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating) (1974)
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Critic Reviews for CÚline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating)
The loosely guided performances are often slack, and the thin depiction of daily life lessens the power of fantasy, yet Rivette's fretful view of the dangers of stories is, in effect, a self-portrait as a cinephile on the verge of hallucination.
Jacques Rivette's free-form dissertation on the interzone between performance and spectatorship is the ideal filmgoing experience, even as the 'story' transcends all long-standing rules of narrative engagement.
An over indulged, overlong film that has some gem-like moments but also repetitiveness and preciosity.
Jacques Rivette's 193-minute comic feminist extravaganza is as scary and unsettling in its narrative high jinks as it is exhilarating in its uninhibited slapstick.
Audience Reviews for CÚline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating)
a mindfuck of lynchian proportions. and absolutely charming. thx s..
CÚline, a flamboyant magicienne, and Julie, a librarian with an interest in the occult, stumble into a perpetually recurring murder-mystery in an old house, starring two women, a man and a little girl. Taking it in turns to collect the pieces of the puzzle, which may or may not be a figment of their imaginations, the friends resolve to prevent the murder from taking place.
It is entirely appropriate that Juliet Berto's CÚline is a magician, because the movie itself is an amazing conjuring trick; when it's over, you'll probably find yourself wondering how you've been kept spellbound for three hours by little more than Rivette's inventiveness and the infectious enthusiasm of Berto and Dominique Labourier's performances. The film works equally well as a playful experiment in cinematic form, a tribute to childlike imagination and a feminist buddy movie. The only thing at odds with the prevailing spirit of feminism, and perhaps the best evidence that the film was, after all, directed by a man, is a pointless bit of nudity, but I'm happy to write that off as dated Seventies permissiveness rather than titillation. In any case, who the hell am I to complain, right?! The greatest tribute I can pay this three-hour-plus film is to say that, when CÚline and Juile's game finally comes full circle and begins again, I always want to carry on watching. Endlessly fascinating, truly magical and a lot of fun!
Sort of a cross between "Alice in Wonderland" and "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead," "Céline and Julie Go Boating" is a peculiar film that defies convention in multiple ways. Even its length (192 minutes) is a challenge. "Surreal" is an overused term, but it certainly applies in this case.
The story opens with Julie (Dominique Labourier) sitting in a park. Tellingly, she is reading a book about magic. A confused-looking woman (Juliet Berto, best known for various Jean-Luc Godard films) stumbles past and drops her sunglasses. As helpful Julie chases after her with the retrieved glasses (the Alice/White Rabbit parallel is intentional), the woman lurches through the streets and drops further items. Soon, we realize that she's knowingly teasing.
Julie and the woman we eventually know as Céline engage in these hide-and-seek games for several scenes, but finally engage each other in conversation. Céline moves into her new friend's apartment, and the giggling begins.
This odd bonding ritual is drawn out for over an hour of screen time. In fact, 11 minutes pass before anyone even speaks. Some background information emerges -- Julie is a librarian, while Céline is a cabaret magician -- but the central plot takes quite awhile to emerge. Accordingly, this is a film where reading a few reviews beforehand can be a major help. Because otherwise, you may need to watch it again. And remember, it's over three hours.
Bearing this in mind, take some advice: Be patient through the first third, because the heart of the story is not so much about the two women's relationship. Or their giggling. The real intrigue begins when they start sharing visions of a past saga within a large, nearby manor. Widower Olivier (director Barbet Schroeder, demonstrating why he didn't make his fortune as an actor) has a young, sickly daughter named Madlyn. His sister-in-law also lives in the home, and aims to win the vacant role of wife and mother. Another resident female, employed to watch Madlyn, shares the same competitive goal. However, there's a problem: The departed wife made Olivier promise not to remarry, for fear of disorienting their child.
A live-in nurse treats Madlyn and, more importantly, serves as the portal through which Céline and Julie observe the family tensions. She is alternately portrayed by both Céline and Julie during these scenes. This is not the only blurring of the two's identities -- they intentionally impersonate each other for sport at other times.
A crime occurs in Olivier's home, and the two eavesdroppers seek to find who did it and, if possible, to intervene before it happens. The story leaves realism further and further behind as it unfolds. Additional spoilers should be avoided, but do pay close attention to appearances of hard candy.
This can be a wearying film -- did I mention the giggling? -- but it turns more engrossing as time passes. In fact, the final half-hour is so delightful that previous frustrations are mostly forgotten. The ending is perfection.
Jacques Rivette's direction is an abrupt clash of styles, in accordance with the two parallel tales. The contemporary scenes have the loose, documentary-like rawness of the French New Wave, while the manor sequences are almost gothic in comparison. The performances of Berto and Labourier are equally jarring when matched with the actors in the fantasy. Meanwhile, there is essentially no musical score. It's a tricky mix -- part old-fashioned melodrama and part Luis Buñuel-like surrealism. Perhaps it's no coincidence that Buñuel made "That Obscure Object of Desire" just three years later, casting two actresses to portray a single domestic worker. Sound familiar?
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