Celine and Julie go Boating – Jacques Rivette – At over three hours in length this bizarre odyssey of the meta-theatrics of cinema, character and who we watch, when we watch, what we watch…requires a certain mood of patience. Being in such a mood I embarked on this wonderfully strange adventure, experiencing a fluctuating waltz between boredom, whimsical humour, unsettling confusion and the compelling sense of a character’s own mental and fictional collapse. It is comparable, in its thematic fascination with female identity, film and boundaries between worlds and states of consciousness, with Bergman’s Persona and Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. However this is not as artfully cerebral as Persona or as dark Mulholland Drive, instead it is wonderful and rare example of a film that allows itself to travel through its own shifts of tone and meaning, at its own pace. Scenes can languorously slide from mild eroticism, playful banality, nonsense and comedy, to tragic melodrama, surrealist dialogue and the shadows of a more disturbing, psychological emphasis.
The film centres around two female friends that use boiled sweets to return to a house in which a cinematic melodrama is unfolding, and in which they are forced to partake like roles in the cracked logic of an unfinished play. The rest of the film floats around this central premise (based on Henry James’ novel, ‘The Other House’), using a fragmented sequencing of recollection and interruption pieced together alternatively by the two girls and our own wandering interpretations. In its uncanny and looping passage through memory and attention the film encourages narrative and its characters to reflexively question themselves just as we, the audience, are engaged in a parallel process…identity is swapped and chronology is circled, like the orouboros bracelet of a snake biting its own tail, dreaming in a moibus strip of who and when Rivette conjures a dazed and inventive exploration of watching and knowing, and how neither are ever reliably one-way or settled. 8/10