Celine and Julie Go Boating | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Celine and Julie Go Boating

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One of the great modern films, Jacques Rivette's 193-minute comic extravaganza is as scary and as unsettling in its diverse narrative high jinks as it is hilarious and exhilarating in its uninhibited slapstick. Its slow, sensual beginning stages a mysterious, semiflirtatious meeting between a shy librarian (Dominique Labourier) and a nightclub magician (Juliet Berto). Eventually, an outlandish plot-within-a-plot magically takes shape between them--a Jamesian, Victorian, and somewhat sexist melodrama featuring Bulle Ogier, Marie-France Pisier, Barbet Schroeder (the film's producer), and a little girl--as each of them, on successive days, visits an old dark house where the exact same events take place. Oddly enough, both of the plots in this giddy comedy are equally outlandish, but the remarkable thing about this intricate balancing act is that each one holds the other in place; the elaborate, Hitchcockian doublings are so beautifully worked out that this movie steadily grows in resonance and power, and the final payoff is well worth waiting for. The four main actresses scripted their own dialogue in collaboration with Eduardo de Gregorio and Rivette, and the film derives many of its most euphoric effects from a wholesale ransacking of the cinema of pleasure (cartoons, musicals, thrillers, and serials). The use of locations (Paris's Montmartre in the summertime) and direct sound is especially appealing, and cat lovers are in for a particular treat (1974). (Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton, Friday and Saturday, July 8 and 9, 7:30; Sunday, July 10, 6:00; and Monday through Thursday, July 11 through 14, 7:00; 281-4114)

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