Monday, September 19, 2011
Links: Celine & Julie Go Boating
Nora Sayre reviewed Celine & Julie Go Boating in the New York Times back in October of 1974, and noted in particular the film's literary allusions, Lewis Carroll, Marcel Proust and Henry James, but also it's Choose Your Own Adventure nature, both for the characters and the audience:
"There's some delightful slapstick afoot as the two run amok, and the last section of the movie is on a par with the comedy of the beginning. In between, there are some marshy passages, mainly due to relentless whimsey. As in Out One/Spectre, the actresses invented their own parts (although the scenes in the house were scripted). In both movies, there are leading characters who are obsessed with solving a mystery; as they become detectives, the audience is invited to do likewise. We're also supposed to create our own plotline for what's actually occurring in that house."
In Slant Magazine, Keith Uhlich adds some filmic allusions:
"Jacques Rivette's masterpiece—quite possibly his greatest film—is a deceptively light-hearted confection that begins and ends (or, rather, begins again) at the entrance to a Parisian wonderland. Bespectacled librarian Julie (Dominique Labourier) pursues amateur magician Céline (Juliet Berto) across a city of dreams (hence the film's homage-to-Feuillade subtitle, "Phantom Ladies Over Paris"), though Rivette doesn't distinguish between the real and the imagined. Theirs is a world of limitless, initially aimless possibilities (reflecting the film's own improvisational genesis) that are slowly honed to a sharp precision point. Those bracing themselves for (or already baffled by) David Lynch's Inland Empire will find the seeds of that film's madness in Céline and Julie Go Boating, what with its pervasive Lewis Carroll referents and seamless doubling effects. . . .(The) story-within—which also features Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, and Barbet Schroeder going through a series of hilariously deadpan motions—has been described as everything from an RKO programmer to a Henry James pastiche: like a fourth-wall smashing Kuleshov experiment, it is what you make of it."
I think Jeffrey Anderson sums it all up nicely though at Combustible Celluloid:
"One possible explanation is that Celine and Julie Go Boating is a fantasy where Rivette and the audience can enter into a movie filled with ghosts and change things around. How often have we imagined what old movies would be like if we could change one little thing? The other important thing to point out is that Celine and Julie Go Boating seems primarily focused on the joy of cinema. Truffaut once said that a movie should represent either the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema--anything inbetween did not interest him. Celine and Julie Go Boating has magic, poetry, singing, lots of laughter (the actresses seem to have giggle fits every time the camera is on them), as well as the ghost and murder story.
A third explanation for the movie is that it seems like we're watching realism; the long takes and natural sound. When in reality the whole creation is one of pure cinema. There is no reality in this movie. In a perfect world, there would be an old movie palace somewhere that plays Celine and Julie Go Boating over and over. Then there would be balance."
Posted by Sean Gilman at 2:31 AM