Celine and Julie Go Boating (1974)

Posted on February 10, 2011

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This film is an absolute pleasure. The film is kooky and rambling — and there is no other way for it to exist. Throw away plot and logic, just sit back and watch the magic unfold as two adorable girls/women become friends and try to save a little girl from a murder mystery.

The film reminded me of the lazy afternoons of my childhood — afternoons spent with my best friend, playing make-believe, eating candies and rambling away. Watching these two women give up their adult life and embrace the magic of childhood is very infectious. I hardly knew when these two women stopped being “women” and became giddy and imaginative girls.

One of the major themes of the film is the sameness of melodramatic theatre — the haunted house in the film — where the same thing happens day after day. Celine and Julie, in that sense, are representative of the New Wave cinema.

The other theme, and to me the more interesting one, is memory. The women when they come out of the house have no memory of what occurred inside, but when they put the colored candies in their mouth, they are able to remember the events that took place in the house. Their fragmented recollections are the perfect material for a classic whodunit. But when they finally enter the house together to solve the mystery and rescue the little girl, the inmates of the house become wooden and stilted. They have theatrical make-up and go about speaking their lines even when the girls forget theirs. The results are laugh out funny.

But why is it that the characters who live in the house seem perfectly normal, and even have motivations, when they appear as memories but become caricature-ish and theatrical when they are finally confronted by the girls? I guess that tells us something about the nature of memory and how, when we narrate or see in our mind’s eye, we add character and motivations to the story that we are telling. The tale is in the telling not the event.

But even if you don’t particularly care about the themes or sub-texts, this film is a rewarding experience. You will never see anything like it.

PS: The theme of identity swapping is very much there in the film and in that aspect, it reminded me of Persona (I watched the film a day before). But later as I sat thinking about the film, I had a crazy feeling that maybe Mulholland Drive is a distant cousin of this film. Let’s see: two women, shower scene, mysterious house, kisses/candies, a magic show, heroines playing the same character, lines that are repeated, a circular structure, parallel worlds, phew!

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Posted in: Reviews