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Film / Celine and Julie Go Boating

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Céline et Julie vont en bateau (Céline and Julie Go Boating) or Phantom Ladies over Paris is a 1974 French arthouse Magic Realism film directed by Jacques Rivette with an understated matter-of-fact tone, crafted out of sheer WTF. The film's French title contains a pun; "vont en bateau" can also mean "get caught up in a story" or "go crazy".

The film opens with soft-spoken red-headed Julie (Dominique Labourier), a librarian lounging in a Parisan park whilst reading a book on magic (the occult kind). Stage Magician Céline (Juliet Berto) dashes past and drops an article of clothing; much like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. Julie, sure enough, picks it up and pursues her. And it goes on from there.

The film is, at heart, a reflection on the nature of the narratives of books and movies; with particular emphasis on the Breaking of the Fourth Wall and insertion of the viewer into the story. Furthermore, it is about adults undergoing age regression and escaping back to the playfulness, innocence and irrationality of childhood.

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The film is more than three hours long, unconventional, and extremely hard to find, but also funny, entertaining, creative, light-hearted and charming.


This film provides examples of:

  • Emergency Impersonation: While they’re spending time in the Haunted House, Cèline and Julie fill in for each other. Cèline picks up the phone and talks with Julie’s ex-lover pretending to be her—she arranges a meeting, wears a red wig, and purposedly blows the reunion, making him break up with Julie. Later in the movie, Julie goes to the Montmartre club where Cèline works and impersonates her during an audition for a world tour she's supposed to go on. She sabotages it, insulting the businessmen ogling her during her number and running away.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Even though the title has a Double Meaning and is a Pun in French, Cèline and Julie actually go boating.
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  • Leave the Camera Running: Kind of a habit for director Jacques Rivette, and this film certainly has moments of this. Take for instance, the opening footchase (see Shout-Out) that seems to go on and on until the heroines have practically covered all of Montmartre.
  • Loony Librarian: Julie is a librarian who studies magic and does Tarot readings.
  • Tarot Troubles: Julie reads the fortune of a fellow librarian and inevitably, the death cards comes up. She informs said librarian that it just means change.


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