Celine and Julie Go Boating

Jacques Rivette's elaborate fairy-tale has its literary roots in Lewis Carroll and Henry James, in Borges and Bioy-Casares; its filmic roots in Melies and Marienbad and Laurel and Hardy. In a film-within-a-film structure, memory and fantasy stretch a present-time encounter between a librarian, Julie (Dominique Labourier) and a magician, Celine (Juliet Berto), into the past and the future, while never leaving the present. More whimsical, but no less labyrinthian, than Rivette's Paris Belongs To Us, the story involves a White Rabbit chase through Montmartre, a mysterious old house in the Paris suburbs, and strange potions in the form of little candies placed on the tongue.
The film was very well received on its U.S. debut at the 1974 New York Film Festival, although it seems to have retained its cult status even until now. Marjorie Rosen of the Soho Weekly News writes:
“Director Rivette uses film with breathtaking originality, manipulating it structurally and temporally; film becomes magic and head space and lore; it also becomes a star vehicle for two of the zaniest comediennes in years. Berto and Labourier vamp and prance and clown their way through a stop-start, deja-vu trip....”
A 1976 Film Heritage poll listed Celine And Julie as one of the best ten films ever made about women - or, in this case, in part by women, as the characters were developed and the cryptic plot pieced together in a close collaboration between Rivette, scriptwriter de Gregorio, and the four leading actresses.

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