If you ever wanted to know why old men stare at young women, it's not always because they have ulterior motives. What startles them most is seeing someone who looks exactly like someone they once knew. And as Jacques Rivette's 1974 Celine and Julie Go Boating mentions, fashions come back every 20 years ... so not only do these women look the same, but they're dressed the same. Like William Demerest says in The Lady Eve: "Positively the same dame!" It would give anyone a shock...clothes make the woman, or so our filmmakers continue to argue in their movies; to dress someone up as someone else transforms them, changing their identity. And just such games are played in this surreal classic, which is the missing link between Vertigo and Mulholland Drive.

The opening shot of Celine and Julie ... has the librarian Julie (Dominique Labourier) sitting on a park bench during a humid day, dressed in clunky mid seventies chic: The backless dress, the hair (a red mop), the platforms with big square heels. She's meant to be a geek; she has large dowdy plastic glasses and she's reading a heavy textbook on Practical Magic. As if summoned up by a spell, magic arrives fast. The screen is crossed by the swift and a little scary Celine (Juliet Berto). Rivette's observation on story telling and fantasy is based a little bit on Lewis Carroll's two Alice books. As she enters the picture, Celine drops a scarf, and runs off, late for work; Julie retrieves the scarf and chases the other girl halfway around Paris, just as Alice had to chase the White Rabbit.
categories Columns, Cinematical