Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating

A wild ride down the river you say? “…Go boating?” not until the end. But what does happen along the way, is that mirror personalities, parallel haunted dimensions, time travel, and French voodoo are all par for the course, leaving the viewer at the end of the film….


It’s an adventure that provokes more questions than it answers, but leaves us with the friendship between the two main characters, Celine and Julie, connected. The two of them their own mirror world in itself, from which they go and take on zombie ghosts of the past.  Their physical games, slapstick humor, name calling, and care for one another form the bedrock of what can be observed between them.

Maybe that’s all our lives, all our friendships, in some way a challenge to defeat the zombies holding our inner child hostage. And it seems Celine and Julie successful, in the end, watching those zombies frozen somehow in their own come back for revenge once more, and journeying on to combat them again…

The constant interplay of their lives, mingling as friends with one another, and finally, mingling with inter-dimensional space leave the viewer exiting the theater looking for the odd man behind the corner.

The movie itself can be said to accelerate the senses, to bring up that which was unnoticed just a moment ago…having had space, time, and personality twisted in and throughout the protagonist, to have been watched by them, in the end, that normal linear experience is an easy task for the brain.

The funny thing established in this film, is the visceral sense of their relationship. I’ve seen those mannerisms before, removed, in places far away from the theater. Those of Celine and Julie, giddy, happy, extroverted and slightly maniacal French young ladies. The laughter, the exuberance, the good-natured sabotage only French women would so gleefully tolerate and retort on. Life for these two does seem to be a game. And maybe this is why they are the most apt to rescue the young girl held hostage by the zombies. Her playful young heart is their truth, and they hers.

…After exiting the theater, colors felt brighter, moments slower, and every entry and exit of the people nearby somehow slowed down, poignant, and filled with meaning, something mysterious, something odd, maybe beautiful.  Each motion something special and patiently waited for.

Jim Jarmouch, perhaps found this formula something to take from.  This movie indeed, reminds me of The Limits of Control.  The overall patience with which the camera waits though, here, is much more natural, much more spacious, and much more joyous.  Joie de vivre, in cinema.


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