Review: Céline and Julie Go Boating

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Directed by: Jacques Rivette

Written by: Jacques Rivette, Dominique Labourier, Juliet Berto, Eduardo de Gregorio, Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier,

Starring: Dominique Labourier, Juliet Berto, Marie-France Pisier

Rating: [4/5]

Openness to opportunities will allow you to embark on journeys you could never imagine. It simply takes a sudden burst to chase after someone when it appears they are dropping things. Céline and Julie Go Boating wraps you up in a mysterious story under the leadership of two incredibly exuberant women, who play by their own rules. 

After chasing down Céline (Juliet Berto) all over Paris, Julie (Dominique Labourier) and the former agree to move in together. As they go on various journeys together they learn about what it means to have control, especially when they discover some strange mystery happening at a certain house. 

Sitting at a whopping 192 minutes, Céline and Julie Go Boating uses its time efficiently to equally confuse and exhilarate whoever stumbles upon the film. I can say with complete honesty that I needed a robust amount of time to fully decipher everything happening in the film, but I can undoubtedly say this story has some incredible thematic elements and two fantastic leading actors to take us on this journey. 

Once these two ladies move in together, their action begins to merge in a sense where they begin to take each other’s places at certain situations. It should not be too easy to do seeing as they have different professions, which initially define their personalities. Céline works as a magician while Julie makes her money from working as a librarian. One requires flash and excitement while the other feels much more academic and rigid. The way they come together builds a rapport, which almost balances the other out with societal expectations. As these two galavant around Paris, it allows them the opportunity to watch a mystery transpire ages ago. 

It occurs at a large house, which allows them to watch this stage-like drama of a widower living with two women who happen to be sisters and both want the affection of the man. While they attempt to grab his attention, a young child also resides in the house. In the story, Céline and Julie watch, as the young boy dies, which becomes the central mystery of the house. Having the two protagonists view the story brings up one of the major themes of magic and how it’s utilized in the story. The most obvious connection appears in the profession of Céline in her cabaret-like club where she performs. However, magic finds itself in the way the women interact with the mystery of this house and how it begins to interact with them. 

They begin to enter the story as characters and they recite scenes as if they have it mesmerized because of their interest in the mystery. The way it plays out begins to be manipulated by them, thus showing a sense of female authorship in the story. The mystery they see follows the women but then revolves around the singular man, but the pair enter the story and make it their own in an exuberant way. The way they play with the story and the rest of the people they interact with demonstrates the bright light they become through every single interaction. They sweep through confrontations and awkward situations in a manner that warms up the occasion and breathes life. It certainly helps when the two leading actors give such otherworldly performances. 

Juliet Berto and Dominique Labourier give off this exuberance in each scene, where it feels like they don’t exist in the real world. They switch off each other’s personalities and form a friendship bonded by their differences and what they seek in the world. Even with the plot being as confusing and aimless at times, they remain our anchor and do delightfully well. Their happiness pierces through any sticky situation because they move with weightless enigmas through everything. 

Céline and Julie Go Boating may leave you scratching your head, but give it a moment to sit back and think about the journey they undertake and it shows a beautiful friendship blossoming before our eyes. A truly whimsical feature fitting right into the emergence of the French New Wave, which has all of the flash of Jacques Rivette’s other contemporaries. The film is long but it flies by because of how the two leads draw us into this journey and make us chase them through the streets of Paris.

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