Thursday, September 6, 2012

585. Celine et Julie vont en bateau/Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)

Running Time: 193 minutes
Directed By: Jacques Rivette
Written By: Juliet Berto, Eduardo de Gregorio, Dominique Labourier, Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, Jacques Rivette
Main Cast: Juliet Berto, Dominique Labourier, Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, Barbet Schroeder

IT CAME FROM YOUTUBE the blue hell...did I just watch? That's the feeling that I was left with as "Celine and Julie Go Boating" came to a close and I couldn't decide whether I'd just seen a masterpiece or a disasterpiece. I'm still not entirely sure, but which way will I lean? Read on.

It would cause Excedrin headache #52 if I were to get into great detail on the plot, so I'll just cover the basic blueprint of the film, which should be plenty for you to get the just of it. The film opens with a shot of Julie
(Labourier) sitting on a park bench, reading a book about magic and potions and such. As she reads, she can't help but notice a girl rushing by, dressed in gaudy attire (feather boas, sunglasses, etc.). Although Julie doesn't know it yet, the girl is Celine (Berto) and as she rushes by, she begins dropping various possessions. Julie runs to catch up to her, but Celine won't stop and Julie ends up chasing her clear to her apartment. One thing leads to another (this is me not getting into the details) and Celine ends up moving in with Julie. Julie's the more adult of the two, holding down a job in the local library and Celine more resembles a child, with childlike features, expressions and body language. A day or so later, Celine begins to recount to Julie a job she had as a nanny and how she was rushed off the premises one day, skinning up her knee. The next day, Julie decides to pay a visit to this house, to see why the family ejected Celine. Julie enters the house and hours later is pushed out the front door with no memory of what happened inside. The following day, Celine returns to the house to find out why Julie was ejected and the same thing happens to her: she enters and after several hours, is pushed outside with no memory of events. That should just about cover the essentials.

Julie (left) and Celine (right)


Let me start off by stating that it took me three sit-downs to finish this movie, not necessarily because it was difficult to get through, but because it was very long and I've been working early hours. Let me also state that when I was finished watching "Celine and Julie Go Boating", I couldn't resist looking up some further information on the explanation of the plot. Now, of course, Rivette himself never told anyone the true meanings behind his film, so that left a lot of amateur film critics to make their own assumptions. For the most part, people are fond of comparing the film to the story of Alice in Wonderland and say that the plot has a lot to do with imagination, magic and memory themes. I looked at this movie in a different way. Maybe my way wasn't as thought out as others, but the following are just the ideas that naturally came to me as I was watching this movie and like they always say, you can interpret each and every movie however you here goes.

My theory is that Celine and Julie were on heavy amounts of acid or some other hallucinatory drugs. Now before you discredit my theory, allow me to explain. The obvious clue that lead me to this conclusion was the sucking of "candy" to regain memory. After Celine and Julie exited the house and flagged down a taxi, they would always find a hard candy mysteriously lodged in their mouths. They later realized that sucking it would cause the events that occurred while inside the house to come back to them. Later in the film, when there is no candy to be consumed, the girls happen upon a book that tells them that equal amounts of water, earth, fire and air will work just as well, so they mix up a concoction and chug it down. So, to summarize, Celine and Julie can flashback to a previous time (a time when they were blacked out and have no memory of) by ingesting certain substances...does that not scream junkie? Beyond that, my theory is also held together by the fact that Celine and Julie act as if they're all hopped up on some serious goofballs. They're constantly laughing and picking at one another and did I mention that they're CONSTANTLY laughing!? So it it possible that the entire film is about a couple of junkie girls who fantasize and hallucinate a house where a murder is taking place? Yes. Is it likely? No. I'm probably way off base, but I just couldn't help thinking that and it seemed like an obvious candidate for the solution to this movie.

I also kept wondering whether or not there actually were two girls or if one was merely a figment of the other one's imagination. If you watch the film and look at the characters of Julie and Celine as one person, it all makes sense. They're never in the same scene with a third character and there are at least two instances where Julie pretends to be Celine and vice versa. It's more likely to believe that Celine isn't real, as she is the more flamboyant one in the beginning of the movie. Julie seems more down to earth and it seems more likely that her life may be boring enough (reading books on a park bench, working in a library, holding out hope that her COUSIN turns out to be the love of her life) to invent Celine, a more exciting personality. This theory, in my opinion, holds much more water that the junkies theory and believe it or not I didn't see anyone else on the net pitching this idea. I can't have been the first one to think of it though...I'm just not that smart folks.

The only other recurring theme that struck me from the film was the whole watching a movie, within a movie idea. Notice how when Julie and Celine suck the candy and recall their blacked out memories, it's as if they're staring at an off-camera television and watching a popular soap opera. Not only that, but it's as if they're watching a soap opera and imagining that they're one of the characters and furthermore, one of the characters who can really change the outcome of an otherwise tragic story.

"Celine and Julie Go Boating" is a tough nut to crack, to say the least. One of three things will happen when you watch this film: you'll either hate it, love it or you just won't know what to think of it and be totally perplexed at the whole concept of it. I fit into that last category. Let me say to, before I forget, that the actresses were absolutely BRILLIANT. At times, this film frustrated me, but these two girls were very smile inducing. Their onscreen energy was contagious and that's saying something when energy from two girls, in a film from 1974, travels thirty-eight years into the future and sticks to me. Was anyone else reminded of Janet and Chrissy from "Three's Company" when observing Julie and Celine. I really think that Julie looked like a redheaded Joyce Dewitt and Celine was childlike and naive enough to remind me of Chrissy. That's my random though of the month, chew on it.

RATING: 5/10  Yeah, rating this film a '5' is my way of petering out of giving this one a proper rating. Listen, I didn't hate it by any means and hey, maybe it was a masterpiece in disguise. But for my money and my attitude when I watched it, the masterpiece just didn't shine through as blatantly as I'd have liked it to, so I can't go too high either. So it's a '5' with it :)


September 6, 2012  10:59pm


  1. All right so I fit into the first category (i.e. I hated it). I think this kind of cerebral movie would be a fun short or vignette but for three hours? No way in hell!

  2. Actually Amanda, I was going to mention the length in my review. I completely agree with you - it IS way too long. Had they cut it down a little, I think it would've only helped matters. Thanks for commenting and keep up the great work with your own blog.

  3. Count me in the 3rd category as well. It was just bizarre and I couldn't figure out what Rivette was trying to communicate with his film. Interesting idea with Celine and Julie really being the same person, but I don't quite buy it. If Rivette was really going all "Fight Club" on us, wouldn't he need to reveal it a bit more explicitly? (Plus, I think the director guy - M. Dede, I believe - didn't recognize Julie when she showed up to sabotage Celine's audition for the Arab producers, but I could be remembering it wrong.)
    My own impression was that they were tumbling down the rabbit hole of drugs, but that's little more than a guess. Really it was all just too weird for me.

  4. Boy, it's just so easy to just chalk it all up to drugs and call it a day, but it really does make sense, doesn't it? Anyway, yeah definitely weird, but I think it was more of a good weird than a bad weird. I'd like to take another crack at it someday, just to see how it strikes me on a different day.


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