Friday, February 13, 2009

Céline, Julie and Their Confusing Magic

I still can't understand why Jacques Rivette's Céline et Julie Vont En Bateau is not available on region 1 DVD. I now find that it's been uploaded to YouTube, but without English subtitles. Still, it at least there to look at.

Céline et Julie is a hard film to describe, though the Wikipedia entry actually does a pretty good job of it. It's a "magical realism" movie combined with a cinéma vérité style and blown up to epic length. The silent opening scene has a gritty, real look to it, but it's also very long and deliberately confusing, and it's a direct reference to the opening of Alice in Wonderland with Céline following Julie the way Alice followed the rabbit.

Rivette also was the only person in the history of the world more obsessed with Artists and Models than I am, and he said that >Céline et Julie was partly inspired by that movie: you can see it in the personalities of the leads (similar to both the male and female leads of Models), in the idea that someone's crazy stories can become real and intrude into the "real" world, and in the dream-logic of starting with a somewhat normal story and getting more and more outlandish as the film goes on. It's a difficult movie and I'm not sure if I could take it in one 200-minute sitting, but it's worth checking out as an example of the way Rivette took the New Wave style to places that the better-known New Wave directors either couldn't or wouldn't go. (Godard may have kept on experimenting, but after a certain point he completely stopped caring about his characters as people. It was up to Rivette and a few others to make unusual, frustrating movies that were about human beings.)

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