Started watching Céline and Julie Go Boating again over the weekend, it’s my ultimate comfort film. At something over three hours it’s often too long to watch at a stretch, so I usually split it into episodes over two or three nights. I usually turn to it around now, when the dark and cold draws in – it radiates pure heat – the sun on the Parisian streets, the cats lazing in the park and the gardens of 7 bis Rue du Nadir aux Pommes. After a glass or two of red wine I’m back in the summer time.
There’s also Juliet Berto of course, as Céline. I could watch Juliet all day long, her classic French pout, her wild expressions, it’s so sad to think that she died so young, and just as sad that Céline and Julie is the only film of hers that appears readily available on dvd. I’ve searched everywhere for copies of Duelle, Neige or Mr Klein with no success.
I have been fascinated by this film for years. It never made the cinema chains in England, but was limited to occasional art house showings. I remember one hot summer’s day, dragging reluctant friends away from an idyllic picnic party by a river to sit in a dark sparsely population cinema for three hours.
It was always my ambition to walk through Paris, to track down the locations, to climb the stairs by the funicular, to sit in those parks in the heat and to track down 7bis if it’s still standing. It was always my plan to set up a shrine to Juliet Berto here on the internet – to collect all her films and pictures together as she fades into the history books.
Céline and Julie I think has been analysed to death by the cinema experts, to trace the allusions and sources. But that’s not its appeal for me. I’m a fan – a Céline and Julie fan – for me it remains a magical enigma – I just need to watch again and again – to watch as Sophie weaves her plan to poison Madlyn – to watch Julie destroy Céline’s career and Céline destroy Julie’s engagement The scene outside the theatre, where Céline animatedly (and with such French style) recounts her meeting with her ‘vrai Americienne’ with a pink heart shaped swimming pool. (For such a free flowing script apparently that was the only improvised scene). I love the fashions, how dated it seems, a commentary on the dvd remarks that the 1970s fashions Céline and Julie wear – the stacked heels, Julie’s skirts – look probably more dated than those of the 1930s film within a film characters – and it’s true.
of course parts of it grate – it is dated and Julie’s squeaks and squeals and the occasional manic laughter when they roll around drunk on the magic potion are slightly embarrassing when someone catches me watching
Céline and Julie is now a piece of cinema history, hiding under piles of dust emerging only occasionally when some film student or historian thinks it worthy of another research paper. But for me it’s an integral part of my past – as I say a comfort film to forget the present and take me back to better days.