English Title: Celine and Julie Go Boating
Original Title: Céline et Julie vont en bateau – Phantom Ladies Over Paris
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mystery
Director: Jacques Rivette
Eduardo de Gregorio
This Jacques Rivette’s genre-defying opus is an unsung hero upon its release in 1974, but 40 years later when we are all stumped among the cornucopia of derivative outputs, this masterpiece attests that it is never too late to burrow into historical archives, advocate hidden gems and introduce them to the fast food generation, and CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING could overtly widen one’s filmic horizon by its unprecedented storytelling and the contagiously jovial aura.
As if playing blind man’s bluff, the film begins with a head-scratching hide-and-seek tailing between Julie (Labourer), a librarian and Celine (Berto), an amateurish magician, we will never know from the context whether they are acquaintances before or the first-sight attraction draws them closer, after a chirpy episode of putting out feelers, they lives together in a small apartment, where Celine casually mentions of her unpleasant experience working as a nanny for a mystified ménage-à-trois family, it intrigues Julie’s curiosity, from then on, a very unique ghost-house yarn has been ingeniously unveiled through Celine and Julie’s multiple impersonations as the reserved nanny in a boudoir drama.
The film is such a pioneer in its blending liberal modus operandi of whimsicality (the first half looks like everything is done impromptu) with elaborately calculated ad hoc murder scheme, Celine and Julie’s laid-back and bubbly kindred spirit permeates the film and modulates its rhythm and pulses up to a labyrinthine fantasy, utterly absorbing and an influential progenitor to many future rule-breakers (MEMENTO 1999).
It is a diptych in its cinematographic style as well, the insouciant nouvelle vague influence vs. a multi-angled indoor observation, which magnifies Berto and Labourier’s disparate temperaments, intensify Ogier and Pisier’s distinctive mystique and functionally wrap us up into this whodunit during the long-haul.
Meanwhile, Rivette adequately leaves viewers many open threads to chew on, like the jumpy intercutting of the shots in the house during Celine’s magic show, is a perplexing maneuver to lure us into the mystery, and it works. Also, one snippet when they let a coin to decide whose turn to visit the mansion, Julie cannily says “head I win, tail you lose”, one should not miss the ephemeral stimulation which plainly gives more credits than its ostensible spontaneity.
At first glance, its 193 minutes running time looks daunting, but as I watched it separately in two days, it turned out pretty well. It is a film can wholly alter one’s notion of story-telling in an anti-cinematic methodology, and Rivette pulls it off effortlessly, a must-see for all thirsty film gourmets. Plus, it has a sterling ending which will completely shatter your expectation.