Following its release on a new print by BFI Distribution in May 2006, during the major Jacques Rivette retrospective at the NFT (now BFI Southbank), the BFI released his magical 70s favourite Céline and Julie Go Boating.
Rivette's biggest commercial hit is an exhilarating combination of the themes of theatricality, paranoia and la vie Parisienne, all wrapped up in an extended and entrancing examination of the nature of filmmaking, and film-watching.
Céline (Juliet Berto), a magician, and Julie (Dominique Labourier), a librarian, meet in Montmartre and wind up sharing the same flat, bed, fiance, clothes, identity and imagination. Soon, thanks to a magic sweet, they find themselves spectators, then participants, in a Henry James-inspired 'film-within-the film', a melodrama unfolding in a mysterious suburban house with the 'Phantom Ladies Over Paris' (Bulle Ogier and Marie-France Pisier), a sinister man (Barbet Shroeder) and his child. The atmosphere, however, is more Lewis Carroll, with Juliet Berto and Dominique Labourier as twin Alices. The four main actresses improvised their own dialogue in collaboration with Rivette and scriptwriter Eduardo de Gregorio.
Acknowledged by director Susan Seidelman as a huge influence on her own hit film Desperately Seeking Susan (1985),Céline and Julie Go Boating was Rivette's greatest commercial and critical success – its freewheeling, playful spirit still capturing the imagination of new audiences today.
New filmed introduction by Jonathan Romney on Rivette and Céline and Julie Go Boating
Toute la memoire du monde (Alain Resnais, 1956, 20 mins, English subtitles)
The Haunted Curiosity Shop (R W Paul, 1901, 2 mins, silent)
Illustrated booklet including a review by Tom Milne; interviews with Dominique Labourier, Juliet Berto and Jacques Rivette; Susan Seidelman's reflections on her Rivette-inspired Desperately Seeking Susan; director biography