Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Favorite Movies Nobody Has Seen, #2

Celine and Julie Go Boating (Céline et Julie vont en bateau) 1974

Jacques Rivette was one of the intellectual leaders of the New Wave in French cinema, but most of his works are seldom seen. The fact that one—Out 1—clocked in at 13 hours, might give you some idea why his commerical success wasn’t greater. Celine and Julie isn’t short either, running three hours and thirteen minutes.

The movie is allusive, intriguing, and ultimately puzzling. The first time I saw it, by the time the final credits began rolling members of the audience were already arguing with one another. The construction is circular; identity-swapping and repetition are key to the film. The spine of the story covers a specifc day some time in the past where a murder was committed in a mansion. Maybe.

Through some form of magic, Julie and Celine, by turns, find themselves in the middle of the family drama inside the mansion, reliving slices of that fateful day from the perspective of some member of the household...except that they forget everything when they come out of the house…but they invariably find a piece of hard candy in their mouth, which, when they share it with the other one—

I give up. There’s several layers of deep logic in the film, but they are all dream logic. It's like Lewis Carroll meets Jonathan Carroll. Some people (I’m one) find Celine and Julie to be gorgeous and hypnotic and mystifying. (And Juliet Berto, who plays Celine, was sex-eeeee. Whoa.) Others find it too puzzling and ultimately soporific to watch. It has been released on VHS, but there is no US (Region 1) DVD. (There is, I’m told, a Region 2 DVD, which is nice for those in Europe and Japan, but useless to Yours Truly.)

Those who like this sort of thing will love it. Those who don't like this sort of thing will probably stop watching after they realize that Juliet Berto only does the one shower scene.


Jake Jesson said...

Jonathan Carroll. Huh, name rings a bell, but I had to Wikipedia him; I don't believe I've read any of his stuff.

Reading the Wikipedia summary of this film (I didn't read the ending, note) makes me want to watch it. Fighting against a predetermined narrative is a theme that appeals to me - if Wikipedia is indeed correct in attributing this theme to the movie!

And as for dream logic - I'm polishing a story based on a dream as we speak, for my application to a creative writing class... I doubt it will be accepted, regardless of merit, however. It's not literary enough. (Though I'm toning down the more obvious sf/fantasy elements, like omitting mentions of alternate universe travel and just going with dream logic...)

David Isaak said...

I have a copy of Celine and Julie on VHS, but good luck finding it in the US otherwise.

Oh, with one possible exception. The store "Le Video" in San Francisco. Amazing selection of offbeat films, and employees who actually know what they are talking about. --it's worht a try.

Jake Jesson said...

I do hope it's on DVD, as I don't own a VCR. (Or a television. I have a DVD player on my computer.)

Jake Jesson said...

Actually, a Google search tells me that I can buy a used copy from Amazon, if I come up with $75 somewhere. I could technically download it via Bittorrent for free - enough people apparently like it that it's popped up on some tracking sites. Of course, the latter would be a move of dubious legality...

David Isaak said...

Hmm. Computer DVD players probably don't have that regional coding problem, do they...?