Céline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating)

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 26


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,210
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Movie Info

A story about story-telling, Jacques Rivette's self-referential classic centers on the fanciful world of two women literally lost in the stories they tell each other. Celine (Juliet Berto) and Julie (Dominique Labourier) go from sharing a story about a haunted house to being part of a story about a haunted house -- or is it a real haunted house that has been called up by the story? The film blurs the line between the telling of the story and the story itself, as Celine and Julie, like Alice in Wonderland, become part of a surreal, drug-induced parallel universe; also like Alice, they ultimately become the heroines of the story that first imprisoned them. Rivette celebrates the magic of stories, and more broadly of imagination, adventure, and friendship, as essential elements of life; the themes are familiar from his other movies, but the tone is more playful. This enigmatic and fanciful film is not for all tastes, but, for its many devotees, it is one of the most distinctive and imaginative movies ever made. ~ Leo Charney, Rovi


Critic Reviews for Céline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating)

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (1)

  • It's as if Borges had cast Thelma and Louise in Groundhog Day.

    Jan 17, 2019 | Rating: A+ | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Dec 14, 2015 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Jun 11, 2008 | Rating: 6/6

    David Fear

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Dialogue is minimal and events, such as they are, are propelled by a whimsicality characteristic of its era.

    Nov 12, 2007 | Full Review…

    Andrew Pulver

    Top Critic
  • An over indulged, overlong film that has some gem-like moments but also repetitiveness and preciosity.

    Nov 12, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Nov 12, 2007 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Céline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating)

  • Jul 26, 2014
    <i>Celine and Julie Go Boating</i> is whatever you want it to be. So here I go. For me, <i>Celine and Julie Go Boating</i> is simultaneously about two things: 1) One is meta-art, using the term "art" in general terms, be it theater, painting, architecture, music, literature, cinema, etc. The typical role of the viewer is passive, because the viewer has no control over the events. Events just unfold regardless of the viewer's preferences. Everything has a beginning, and has an end. Even if the end has a vague nature, it is there to close things. Time and space cease to exist in that work of art once that the ending has commanded it. However, we know that is not entirely true. Art is transcendent, and its appreciation can lead to a more meaningful construction of human coexistence, an exteriorization of the soul, heck, an escapism at the worst of all cases. The authors of the meaning of art are us, not only the makers. In that way, art finds perpetuity in our existence and in humanity as a whole. 2) The second one is the creative process of the mind. This points out at two things at the same time: memory and art, and that is how I make the connection between points 1) and 2). <i>Celine and Julie Go Boating</i> mimics the mental process that we go through while being a "passive" participant of the story watching it in a theater, watching it in a big screen, appreciating it in a whole painting image, hearing it in the lyrics of a music, etc. Just think about how your memory works when trying to remember one of your favorite art works that follows a progression of elements and events, and you'll see that the meaning remains, but begins to acquire holes as a cheese. Still, the transcendence remains, perhaps permanently. In a way, I see the film as an invitation to become active viewers instead of passive, leaving the feelings at the theater or on the couch. One can be an active participant as much as desired, twisting the meaning of it all and sharing it with others to form a concoction of perspectives: the beauty of a cinema community, in short. And yet, this film is about much more. Maybe I'll understand it later, as my perception twists things once again. Rivette's stamp is worth a honorable mention here. His style is unique. He fuses joyous personages with irreverent humor mainly based in their playful personalities. He places symbols all over the places, that range from meta-references to the swap of identities and using both women as versions of Alice and versions of the rabbit interchangeably. He combines the Nouvelle Vague with a twist on the <i>Alice in Wonderland</i> tale meets Henry James' <i>The Romance of Certain Old Clothes</i>. He uses editing for mirroring the intentional dreamlike nature of it all, just like the mind works. He makes us laugh. He scares us with some ghastly imagery. He leaves us perplexed. Magnifique, and very entertaining. 96/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 03, 2009
    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?
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 29, 2008
    Watching 'Celine and Julie Go Boating' may well have been the most bizarre, wonderful and memorable three hours of my life.
    Emily B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2007
    a mindfuck of lynchian proportions. and absolutely charming. thx s..
    Stella D Super Reviewer

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