Recurring Title Card
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 Parisian 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.
The film is more than three hours long, unconventional, and quite hard to find.
This film provides examples of:
- Animal Motifs: Cats appear everywhere.
- 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.
- Genre Shift: The Flashback scenes inside the Haunted House practically seem to belong to a different movie, intentionally so.
- Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: Céline pulls this on Julie with a coin when they're debating who gets to go the house on a particular day.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: The title characters, in a surprisingly short time.
- Ironic Echo: At the end of the movie, it's Celine who's reading on a park bench, and Julie is the one who walks past and drops a piece of clothing, leading Celine to run after her.
- Le Film Artistique: It's French, three hours long, includes seemingly completely unnecessary scenes, has a plot (when you get to it) whose closest comparison would be Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the ending... borrows heavily from Theater of the Absurd, that's all we'll say. It's actually un film très charmant if you're patient with it. In fact, it is director Jacques Rivette's most commercially successful and accessible film. If you want a real challenge, see if you can sit through all 13 hours of "Out 1" — if you can find a screening, that is.
- It has been described as having an almost identical, though comedic, version of the story that Mulholland Dr. later revisited, adding a more explicit lesbian subtext.
- 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.
- Magic Realism: Mind Screw meets Slice of Life comedy.
- Running Gag: "But then, the next morning..."
- 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.