Céline and Julie Go Boating

Céline and Julie Go Boating aka Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Jacques Rivette, 1974)
This 193 minutes film about two women in Paris living in a total debonnaire attitude reflects the liberty and improvisation that the movie represents. This is an experience of playful and free cinema that few great films have displayed. Weirdly connected to the Czech New Wave film by Vera Chytilova’s Daisies, where two women are getting rid of every social convention and finish in a huge orgy of food that can make anyone hungry as hell.
In the case of Rivette’s film, the two leads also acts as two child-women and it almost always involves playful acts in every scene. There is also a sense of improvisation in the dialogues and the development of the scenes. However, Rivette has stated that the script was written way ahead before filming and that the story was planned. The scenes are quite long and it is interesting to see how they evoluate. Rivette seems to have the instinct of the director who knows how to get those moments of pure cinema (borrowed from Jeffrey Anderson’s superb review at Combustible Celluloid). Especially, considering the long list of writers that contains almost all of the central actresses of the film.
There’s also a superb use of space in Céline and Julie, and it is clear that Rivette knows his Cinema. Some eliptical scenes are refleted between the two leads and the concept of location has a very deep meaning in his means of telling his story. Another important aspect of his storytelling is how he mixes imagination and reality.
A vibrant feeling of cartoon fills the acting of the two leads and it makes all senses when they are together with the little girl of the ghost house where they go and try to change the past. The freedom of Rivette’s filmmaking is unsettling at first, but once you get into his story and let yourself drift into this dream like state that characterizes Céline and Julie you are in for a memorable and a one of a kind movie experience.
With all that said, I believe that it is a monumental film that places itself within the most important films of all time, just like The Discreet Charm of the Brougeoisie or Pierrot le Fou. It is a very fun film that also demonstrates a master’s unique storytelling and his cinematic innovations. However, compared to the two aforementioned masterpieces, I would rank Céline et Julie vont en bateau as a near masterpiece. Still, I would highly recommend it to any French film enthusiast (yes John LaRue it is you I am pointing at) and every film buff.


  1. Playful, elliptical, monumental, one of the most important films of all time. I couldn't have said it better.

    It frustrates me, that compared to his peers, Rivette never really gets the recognition he deserves (how is it even possible that Criterion doesn't have this masterpiece in its catalog?). In my mind, he was the most adventurous, and most consistently mind blowing director of the nouvelle vague.

    1. Thanx Bonjour Tristesse.

      I agree with you that Rivette doesn't get the recognition he should receive. His films are more experimentals than his peers. They are hard to find and long exercices. I'm not excusing the fact that he doesn't get it, but I'm not that surprised that compared to Godard, Truffaut, Rohmer, Chabrol, etc. he is not as "cool".

  2. I just watched Céline and Julie Go Boating, it certainly is ambitious and unique. I confess I lost patience with the film midway through. The first half was stronger than the last half, in my opinion.
    I'm still curious about Rivette's other films, simply because this one is so original, and indeed a one-of-a-kind movie experience. Look out for my review at the end of April.

    1. Very eager to read your thoughts!
      I think the lenght might be its biggest enemy. Because the plot, or lack of, might be more felt at the middle. Especially witht the many repeated scenes.
      It is however a challenging film that has brought something unique to filmmaking. Something that can't be really described but experienced in the viewing.
      Thanks for passing by Chris!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...