Sunday, January 13, 2008

Screening Log - Before Sunrise / Before Sunset

Okay, so maybe to some these two Euro-romances are old news, but I just discovered them and I am swooning like Julie Delpy on the ferris wheel…

Before Sunrise (1995) is THE classic backpacker romance. Jessie and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) meet on a train in Europe: she’s heading home to Paris, he’s getting off in Vienna for a flight home to the US the next morning. They click; they get off the train together; they spend a night wandering around Vienna. That’s pretty much it, but I thought it was beautiful – nice footage of both classic landmarks and Viennese street scenes, great music, and it’s like spending two hours eavesdropping on a conversation between two pretty interesting people. There’s a voyeuristic enjoyment in watching their connection develop.

Caveat: Even as I was loving the movie, I couldn’t help thinking that if I’d watched it five, three, or even two years ago, I might have hated it. The thing is, nothing really happens. They just walk around and talk: about love, death, the usual late-night backpacker fare. If you’ve recently done the Europe backpacking thing, or if you just like slow-moving, beautiful films that emphasize character and setting more than action, give this one a shot.

Before Sunset (2004) catches up with Jessie and Celine as they meet again nine years later, in Paris. This time their wandering and talking covers only the span of an afternoon, so it is almost like watching them in real time as they re-discover their old connection. There’s less emphasis on place here (although still some great Seine-side shots and a café scene) but you really get to know more about the characters, their lives, their fears, etc. I had one of those dopey, half-teary smiles on my face the whole time.

Ps: Turns out Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy collaborated with Richard Linklater on the script for the second movie… and it was really pretty good. Makes me feel bad for all those cracks I took at Ethan Hawke’s second career as a novelist – maybe I ought to give the guy a chance?

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