Celine and Julie Go Boating ****
Its been almost two weeks ago since I went to a screening of "Celine and Julie Go Boating," and I wish I did a write up on it while it was still playing at BAM. It was only recently that I read up on the film and learned that it is not out on any DVD format for people to see, and the theatre screening was actually somewhat rare. In any case, it did take me some time to really process this somewhat massive film-a real life fantasy story of almost the most innocent kind, which also happens to be a bit over three hours long, something which I found interesting with a film like this. It's an epic in the smallest sense, almost, and I wish I would have the chance to see it again quickly, to somehow process it all again. I think I like the film the more I think about it.
In a nutshell, the film revolves around the meeting between Celine and Julie. The two somehow stick when Julie (reading a book on magic in a park) begins to follow Celine (a magician) after she drops a scarf while running down the road (this being a scene taken from the first scene of "Alice in Wonderland" which this film is loosely based on.) Eventually the two of them become somewhat inseparable, and eventually begin to retreat into a fantasy world where they watch a melodramatic murder mystery unfold-with the aid of hard candies that the would get from a rather mysterious house. Eventually the two of them feel the need to interfere with the story to save a little girl from getting killed.
At such a massive length, one would suspect they would get bored of the movie, especially with a somewhat simple plot such as is. But you would be surprised how involved and how easily you fall into the "antics" of these two women-played by Juliet Berto (Celine) and Dominique Labourier (Julie), who depict such quirky and wonderful chemistry. The facial expressions and the banter between the two is adorable, while the laughing fits they burst into from time to time are contagious, especially in the final act when the two cannot control their happiness and delight at being placed into the story that they have been watching for many many nights. The fairy tale elements of the movie end up working mostly through their performances, and much like the ridiculous plot twists in 'Lady in the Water" end up working because you buy into them so easily thanks to the large talent revolving around the screenplay.
Practically every element of the film provides hopeful sentiment that make the movie such a joyous and quick experience-sans the murder subplot, which since its of a little girl probably isn't very joyous. What strikes as the most happy would probably be how Celine and Julie share the same type of imagination-and even though the fantasy world they concoct is only part of their own head, they manage to find a middle ground between their two imaginations so it is like they are the same person. It's like little children-how they play in worlds that somehow interact with one another, but slowly into adulthood that common imagined bond drifts away. And yet Celine and Julie manage to find that bond within one another-and once again due to the wonderful performances by the two actresses, it is easy to buy into that little kid notion. I wish I could see the film again and try to find more correlations between the real world and the fantasy world, to see if there are any clues within their surroundings that key into the major events of the fantasy, but alas I doubt I'll see the film for a while (unless Criterion manages to make some kind of edition, this seems right up their alley).
I return once again to the very first scene-where Julie chases Celine after witnessing her dropping a scarf. The film is bookended with this scene, only at the end its Celine who chases Julie after witnessing her dropping a book. A somewhat odd ending, considering it goes back to the beginning, and yet it fits perfectly. It's hopeful. It somewhat gives the viewer the feeling that the magic and innocent fantasy will continue over and over again, which is exactly the hopeful sentiment that leaves you smiling as the credits role, which is easy because the movie has so many moments of smiles that just come out of nowhere-from the little earned moments where the two girls share a furtive glance at one another, or are just so clearly happy to be in each others presence. It's chemistry rarely exhibited in many films anymore.
And as for the title-they do go boating. Yes. About 180 minutes into the movie. And why? No clue really. I guess because its in the title. And since they go boating with the little girl, wouldn't that mean that they didn't really go boating at all. Wouldn't that still be a part of the fantasy, which the little girl is? But for Celine and Julie, the fantasy is their reality.