TV Cream

Films: C is for...

Celine and Julie Go Boating

‘There’s a homosexual pancreas in the closet!’ Ah yes, here comes the inevitable Oh, Shit! It’s Jacques Rivette! billing, in which the subject of bad directors comes up. Not bad in the ‘lacking basic competence’ sense, like, say, Peter ‘No Secrets’ Curran or whoever bodged together last Saturday’s shambles of a Dr Who episode (look, there’s a little spirit-level in the camera tripod to help you set it up straight, you know). Bad in the completely undisciplined, whack-it-all-in, every-idea-I-have-is-entirely-valid professional irritant sense. Kubrick, Meyer, Greenaway, yes we’ve been there, but here’s a fine name from the other end of the Sealink route, a man who’ll never shoot six feet of film where three hundred will do, is fond of letting actors ‘extemporise’ for hours on end when he can’t think of anything to do themselves, and is, quite bluntly, full of shit. Viz: ‘It was a nice day, the sun was perfect, and we shot about an hour’s worth of improvised dialogue between the two girls. I like this way of shooting because the unexpected can overwhelm your preconceptions. At a certain point, the actor, like the patient in psychoanalysis, falls into a kind of trance and says things that suddenly become an integral part of the film. I then select such moments from the footage and add them to the final version. Like the psychoanalyst, the director does not talk, he listens – but this is, of course, just a metaphor.’ Well, it’s a simile actually, Jacques, but we’ll put that one down to the translator. He’s talking about this very film, which, coming hot on the heels of his thirteen-hour nothingathon Out, is, at a shade over three, a veritable skit – his Kitty Kornered, if you will. But whereas Bob Clampett put three knockout gags a minute into that wonderment, here we have 192 minutes devoted to approximately one-and-a-half distinct ideas: these two women hang about a bit, then they go into a haunted house and various half-baked ‘weird shit’ happens to them. For bloody ages. A lumpen Philistine view, maybe, but… well, go and have a look at the thing. What makes this High Art exactly, apart from the people in it, and who they happened to know? People into thousand- page bollocks fantasy epics have a similar stamp to Rivette fans – ‘look at all this stuff I’ve just read/sat through! Not many people have done that! That must be worth something!’ It’s the ‘weighing school projects’ mentality at work here, the idea something must be good just because it’s such an arsey bother to see, with the upside that few other people are able/can be arsed to watch the stuff, so the need to defend it comes rarely if at all. It’s a watertight gig, this kind of fandom! Sit through this lummox of a film and you’ll have ammo aplenty to burst their smug bubble, but be warned – it’s not really worth it.

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  1. Frank Jackdaw

    February 14, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Or, alternatively, this is one of the most magical films ever made.

    I don’t care about high art. I don’t care who made it or whether or not I’m *supposed* to like it, this is a weird and beguiling film about dreams and magic, one of those haunting movies that stays with you long after the lights are up. Yes, it’s too long and a tad unstructured, but that doesn’t really matter. And the final image is one of the best in all of cinema.

    I’m bored by boring and pretentious films… but this isn’t one of them. It’s light and silly and a lot of fun if you give it a chance, and go into it with an open mind. The central idea, of an old house containing a melodrama that plays out in a daily loop, is mind-bendingly dreamlike, and in the scenes towards the end in which the girls become “lucid” and explore the dream are pretty affecting.

    Go to it with an open mind. Forget about high art or inverse snobbery. It a fun, weird and evocative little film.

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