Céline et Julie vont en bâteau

Posted: May 5, 2006 in Uncategorized

Céline and Julie Go Boating

The film that brought him his biggest audience, Céline and Julie is Rivette’s most successful combination of the themes of theatricality, paranoia and la vie parisienne, all wrapped up in an extended and entrancing examination of the nature of film-making (and film-watching). Céline and Julie meet by chance (perhaps not for the first time) and soon, thanks to a magic sweet, find themselves spectators, then participants, in a melodrama unfolding in a mysterious suburban house, the wonderfully named 7 bis, rue du Nadir aux Pommes. There is always a text somewhere within a Rivette text, and the events in the house are taken from two stories by Henry James. But the atmosphere (often explicitly) is more Lewis Carroll, with Juliet Berto – that sadly missed icon of the French cinematic 70s – and Dominique Labourier as its twin Alices. The opening pursuit of Céline (Berto) by Julie (the wonderfully earnest Labourier) is the most luminous example of the director’s love affair with Paris (difficult to believe, incidentally, that the film was shot on 16mm) and the whole thing is 192 minutes of pure joy (well OK, the Henry James bits occasionally drag). Rivette, incidentally, has gone on record as saying that the idea that the mysterious ‘sweet’ might have been LSD ‘never crossed [his] mind’. Indeed, the experience is childlike rather than trippy, with the title of the film inspired by books from the director’s childhood in which the young heroes and heroines ‘go climbing’, ‘go camping’, ‘go boating’… Nick Roddick. A bfi release.

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