Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)

8 08 2008

Now, here’s my ideal my ideal type of Rivette film. Very much in the same vein as the great Merry-Go-Round, which is still my favorite of his. This comes in a pretty close second place tie with Histoire de Marie et Julien, which seems as far away removed, stylistically and thematically, from the other two mentioned titles. This and Merry-Go-Round are by far, the most playful Rivette features I’ve seen so far, and said playfulness plays a huge factor in making both films as enjoyable as they are. Like most of Rivette’s productions, the film is mess, but it is also one an incredibly fascinating one.

A nightclub magician named Celine is befriended by a librarian named Julie. In a short amount of time, Celine moves in with Julie, and their lives begin to intertwine. They both begin to devote a large part of their time to participating, or perhaps simply viewing a story that can only be projected by swallowing a mysterious type of candy. They’re transported to a country house setting, in which the death of a young girl engages both women. The two begin visiting the house featured in this “program” and participating in smaller parts, but for what reason exactly?

To answer the question phased in the previous paragraph: no reason, whatsoever! But it is this exact attitude that is present in Celine and Julie and the attitude that makes it such a joy to watch. While there are some possibly symbolic touches, as well as convincing “deep” moments, the film doesn’t ever drag into a puddle of ponderousness. For a three hour film that revolves around magic, one might expect things to be a bit heavy, especially taking into account some of Rivette’s more “serious” efforts.

The one place where the films of the more mature Rivette have the upper hand is clearly the visual department. In all honesty, there aren’t any of the lovely flourishes of Duelle and Noroit, both of which came only two years later. It might sound a little bit harsh, but the cinematography here is not all that exciting, but in Rivette’s defense, the film (at least a majority of it) doesn’t exactly call for too many stylistic touches. The not-so-great visuals fit well with the shaky, documentary nature of the camera’s movements, which works perfectly fine considering how authentic and spontaneous the film is. This is really Rivette’s greatest strength as a filmmaker. When it comes to making films that are purely visceral, he is probably the best, and this film is a perfect representation of such talents.