Jacques Rivette’s spry and intoxicating 1974 comedy Céline and Julie Go Boating observes the way women look at each other, themselves, and the world around them. This through-the-looking-glass comedy begins inside a lovely Parisian garden, with the titular Julie playing Alice to her friend Céline’s white rabbit. The transfixing allure of the film is all over its divine introduction and the way the wind moves sensually through the trees. It’s a perfectly ordinary day, but there’s a hint of mischief in the air. Rivette’s once-upon-a-time title card is the first clue: “Most of the time it started like this.” A seemingly frenzied and oblivious Céline (Juliet Berto) runs past Julie (Dominique Labourier), dropping a string of items. Julie subsequently chases Celine though the park and a local market in order to return her personal belongings. It quickly becomes obvious that the two women are playing a game, and as such the sexy, prosaic tonality of the film’s famous intro reveals itself as a fascinating act of subversion (the “but, the next morning” title cards are Rivette’s theoretical contractions). Simultaneously literate, stagy, and organic, Céline and Julie Go Boating is a free-wheeling study of the narrative-making process and the way we watch movies, but at three-hours-plus, the film’s improvisational tone sometimes betrays Rivette’s meta momentum. Celine and Julie’s spontaneous misadventures actively reject memory and are intercut with scenes from a murder mystery set inside a possibly haunted house (comparisons to Mulholland Drive are impossible to ignore). The film’s dialectic isn’t so much an interplay between the past and the present as it is an elaborate confrontation between two very active spectators and a dodgy narrative text. Rivette fabulously engages silent film idiom (watch for the romantic imbroglio between a disguised Céline and Julie’s childhood crush and, later, the sweet homage to Les Vampires, a favorite of Rivette’s) as a means of rejecting the past (represented by the house). Julie looks back, Celine looks forward. When they do neither, they’re as free as the wind. Indeed, the world is very much a stage for Rivette’s actresses, and they believe only in living in the moment.
- New Yorker Films
- 193 min
- Jacques Rivette
- Juliet Berto, Eduardo de Gregorio, Dominique Labourier, Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, Jacques Rivette
- Juliet Berto, Dominique Labourier, Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, Barbet Schroeder, Nathalie Asnar, Marie-Thérèse Saussure, Philippe Clévenot, Anne Zamire, Jean Douchet, Adèle Taffetas, Monique Clément, Jérôme Richard, Michael Graham, Jean-Marie Sénia
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