Celine and Julie Go Boating (Céline et Julie vont en bateau) (1974)

Film, Comedy
Céline et Julie vont en bateau

Time Out says

The 100 best French films

This film ranked #32 in Time Out's list of the 100 greatest French films. Click here to see the full list. 

Director: Jacques Rivette

They meet, like Alice and the White Rabbit, in a sun-dappled French park, amateur illusionist Celine (Juliet Berto) bounding heedlessly past studious librarian Julie (Dominique Labourier). One dropped scarf and a lengthy foot-chase later, these two effusive ladies with catlike curiosity are practically inseparable — so much so that they can try on each other’s identities like best friends swapping favourite apparel. Celine is Julie, Julie is Celine, distinct yet interchangeable: In their varying guises, they dismantle all real-world attachments (a pompous boyfriend and a burgeoning magic career are playfully, hilariously tossed to the wind) so that they can focus on a fantasy. There’s this shuttered-up house, see, where a ghostly quartet is performing a murderous melodrama on a continuous loop.…

Director and cowriter Jacques Rivette conceived Celine and Julie as a light-comic breather following the heavy experience of the epochal, politically charged Out 1 (1971). Don’t let the extended running time dissuade you: This is the rare breezy three-plus hours that manages to explore heady concepts—from the malleability of personality to the fine line separating voyeurism and participation — without once feeling laboured. Much of the film’s buoyancy has to do with the indelible onscreen pairing of Berto and Labourier; the further they descend into their virtual wonderland, which Rivette cleverly visualizes with strategically repeated visuals and a minimum of ostentatious effects, the more infectious the duo’s natural enthusiasm becomes. By the time they’ve taken full control of the movie’s alternate universe — as the melodrama morphs with marvelous ease into a musical comedy — you feel like anything is possible. Cinema this alive is a rare bird, indeed.

 

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