Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Original title: Celine et Julie Vont En Bateau
France, 1974. Action Films, Les Films 7, Les Films Christian Fechner, Les Films du Losange, Renn Productions, Saga, Simar Productions, V.M. Productions. Scenario by Juliet Berto, Dominique Labourier, Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, Jacques Rivette, dialogue by Eduardo de Gregorio, based in part on stories by Henry James. Cinematography by Jacques Renard. Produced by Barbet Schroeder. Music by Jean-Marie Sénia. Costume Design by Jean-Luc Berne, Pierre D’Alby, Laurent Vicci. Film Editing by Nicole Lubtchansky.
Just when you think this film has run out of ways to captivate and mystify you, it finds something new to explore. This masterpiece by the indefatigable Jacques Rivette centers around the two women of the title, who meet thanks to a hilarious circumstance that results in a crazy chase through the streets of Paris and ends with one of them staying at the other’s house. After one hears the other tell of a mysterious mansion that has strange hauntings occuring within it, they each visit it over and over again, and every time emerge unable to remember what happened to them until they reconstruct their experience later. Piecing together the various strings of melodramatic story that occur within the alternate reality they discover there, the ladies begin to suspect that a little girl might be in danger and so embark on an adventure to save her. Naturally, since it’s Rivette, the story doesn’t play out quite so simply; the film’s ample (190 minute) running time allows for these two highly charismatic actresses to explore every manner of whimsy on their way to the completion of their quest, making for one of the richest film experiences you could possibly have. Not content to be merely a lofty art house director, Rivette’s film has influences of the inane and downright comical that give it a deep human touch, thus making the more familiarly sober, long takes so much more pleasurable to sit out. Film stars Marie-France Pisier (Love On The Run) and Bulle Ogier are wonderful as the ghosts haunting the old house, and the film itself was later the inspiration for Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan. Also known as Phantom Ladies Over Paris.
The Criterion Collection: #1069