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Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Céline and Julie Go Boating) is a 1974 French drama/fantasy/arthouse film directed by Jacques Rivette. The film's French title contains a pun; "vont en bateau" can also mean "get caught up in a story" or "go crazy".
The film opens with soft-spoken red-headed librarian and part-time magic student Julie (Dominique Labourier) lounging in a Parisan park whilst reading a book on magic. All of a sudden, Stage Magician Céline (Juliet Berto) dashes past and drops an article of clothing; much like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Céline, sure enough, picks it up and pursues her.
Over the next few days, the two women encounter each other about Paris. Eventually, Céline turns up at the door to Julie's apartment with a bloody gash on her leg. Julie allows her to move in with her. Asking her what happened, Céline tells Julie that she had a run-in with the residents of a big old house where she's working as a nanny, and that she believes they're now after her.
The next day, Céline goes to the house and disappears inside, only to be ejected again after several hours. She's exhausted, and her memory has been erased. On the way back home, she finds a candy lodged in her mouth. The same thing occurs when Julie goes back the next day. Céline then learns that the house has been abandoned for years...
The two women discover that by sucking on the candies, they can regain their memories of the time spent in the house, much as though re-reading a book or re-watching a movie. It seems the same drama is playing out there amongst the ghosts inhaiting it every day, with two sisters battling for the attentions of a widower. This rivalry culminates each day in the murder of the widower's young daughter.
By repeatedly sucking on the candies and being transported back to the house, the women discover that they can deconstruct the fourth wall and start intercepting the events of the repeating drama. Based on this, they concoct a plan to save the young daughter. The two enter the house a final time and by speaking pre-recited lines, they are able to steer the events of the drama to a path that allows them to take the daughter out of the house. They succeed!
To relax after their adventure, the newly-formed trio of women do that which the film's title promises: going boating down a river. As they do so, they catch sight of another boat that contains the two sisters and the widower. All of a sudden, Julie wakes to find herself lounging in a park. Céline dashes past and drops an article of clothing. Julie, sure enough, picks it up and pursues her...
The film is, at heart, a reflection on the nature of the narratives of books and movies; with particular emphasis on the Breaking of the Fourth Wall and insertion of the viewer into the story. Furthermore, it is about adults undergoing age regression and escaping back to the playfulness, innocence and irrationality of childhood.
The film is lengthy (192 minutes long), unconventional, and extremely hard to find, but also funny, entertaining, creative, light-hearted and charming.
- All Just a Dream: Or Was It a Dream??
- Animal Motifs: Cats appear everywhere.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The whole point.
- Gainax Ending
- Gay Paree
- Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: Céline pulls this on Julie with a coin when they're debating who gets to go the house on a particular day.
- Le Film Artistique
- Leave the Camera Running: Kind of a habit for director Jacques Rivette, and this film certainly has moments of this. Take for instance, the opening footchase (see Shout-Out) that seems to go on and on until the heroines have practically covered all of Montmartre.
- Magic Realism
- Our Ghosts Are Different
- Redheaded Hero: Julie.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Can be interpreted as this.
- Shout-Out: To Alice in Wonderland.
- Stage Magician: Céline.
- Tarot Troubles: Céline reads the fortune of a fellow librarian and inevitably, the death cards comes up. She informs said librarian that it just means change.
- WTF: It's a Weird Thing from France.