Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)

Genres - Avant-garde / Experimental, Comedy, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Surrealist Film, Fantasy Comedy  |   Run Time - 193 min.  |   Countries - France  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Craig Butler

Celine and Julie Go Boating is one of those truly rare films that deserves to be called "unique." It also deserves a plethora of other adjectives: unforgettable, fascinating, luminous, haunting, mesmerizing -- and, yes, confusing. Celine is a rich cinematic experience, but it's not one that all viewers will embrace. For one thing, it's a long film, with scenes that are extended beyond the length American audiences may be comfortable with and which is more interested in playing by its own rules than by the conventional ones associated with storytelling in film. Yet its quiet audaciousness in these areas is part of what makes it such a truly special and deeply enthralling film. Those who are willing to let go of their preconceived notions about what a film is supposed to be and to do and can just let themselves become absorbed in the free-spirited abandon with which Jacques Rivette approaches Celine will be well rewarded. All of the above may make Celine seem somewhat intimidating, or perhaps a like a chore. The truth is that Celine is really more of a lark; true, the lack of a conventional narrative may be confusing, but there's a silliness and giddiness to parts of it that help to overcome that. Those who tune into the film will find it quite a joyous experience. Rivette's special magic is the key to the film's success, but also instrumental is the marvelous cast (who improvised much of the dialogue). In the title roles, Juliet Berto is fetching and irresistible, a delight to be around. Dominique Labourier's more reserved Julie is equally enthralling, in a more subdued and restrained manner. Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier and Barbet Schroeder also contribute wonderful moments. Whenever one has the chance, one should catch Celine.