Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Before Sunrise: A Great Date Movie

before sunrise,ethan hawke,julie delpy,richard linklater,movie poster

I'm going to deviate a little from the current movie schedule by talking about something I actually watched when I was in college. It's Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, and pretty much nobody else. I'm doing this because I have a Netflix copy of Before Sunset, the sequel released and set nine years after the original (the first one came out in 1995, and the second in 2004), also directed by Linklater and starring Hawke and Delpy.

If you like romantic movies, it's definitely something to check out. If you like good movies, it's worth checking out. I don't normally like these kinds of movies, and I think this movie is pretty awesome. I don't normally like Ethan Hawke all that much (though he's growing on me), and I'd honestly never even heard of Julie Delpy before this. Richard Linklater is pretty fantastic, though, and he is able to present us with one fabulous and strange night in the lives of two virtual strangers.

The plot is simple to minimalistic perfection. Jesse (Hawke) is an American abroad, traveling around briefly to escape his own thoughts, after a painful breakup with his girlfriend (he came to Spain to see her, and they broke up there, hence his aimless wandering). Céline (Delpy) is in a similar situation, returning to Paris for school (university, not ... anything lower) after visiting her Grandmother. They strike up a conversation, and they debark in Vienna for the night before needing to get on separate trains to get to where they're going. They wander the streets of Vienna all night long, talking, getting close, and finding themselves falling in love. Their attraction is constantly at war with the knowledge that they will be parting ways in the morning (hence the title).

before sunrise,ethan hawke,julie delpy

Linklater wrote the film with Kim Krizan as well as directing, and the screenplay was nominated for Best Adapted Writing Screenplay for the sequel. Like Linklater's previous movies (notably Slacker), this film is extremely dialogue driven, which is obvious considering there are literally only two characters in the film. It's a testament to the acting powers of these two young stars that the audience is barely conscious of the fact that we're only watching two people have a conversation for two hours. The cinematography also helps, showing them wandering around Vienna, which is a beautiful city (from what we can see on screen).

If you've ever seen Slacker or Dazed and Confused, you know that Richard Linklater specializes in aimless young people, stuck in some sort of transitional state, between youth and adulthood, innocence and responsibility. Jesse is a cynical romantic and seems directionless, but Céline's presence clears the cobwebs and the fog a little bit, and doesn't let him get away with his cynicism. Céline is something of a sweet girl, and was excited by the possibility of getting off the train with Jesse. She reveals later that even though he "convinced" her to go with him, she had decided she would well before then. They share a kiss and long, deep conversations ranging from life, relationships, death, family, education, and religion. The poet David Jewell has a cameo as a bum/poet that says he'll write a poem based on a word of their choosing for money. They pick "milkshake," and they are surprised at how apt and beautiful the poem is.

before sunrise,ethan hawke

I just really like this movie, that's pretty much the gist of what I have to say. On the surface, the typical audience will probably enjoy it as a "love that can never be" kind of story, a young love story of hope and regret, blooming emotions that we know will be cut short. Underneath, it's even better, when we really pay attention to the dialogue, what they discuss, and how Linklater follows them around Vienna. They're often framed together, rarely apart, and the implication is that they make love in the park. before they get on the train in the morning, they agree to meet at that very train station in six months. We're never shown whether or not they do, but I can assume based on the plot of the sequel that they do not, and only reunite after nine years serendipitously.

I definitely suggest checking this movie out. Go out and rent it, put it on your Netflix queue, try to catch it on TV (it must be on TV sometimes, but I can't say that I've ever seen it there). I actually own this movie (I bought it for class instead of just renting it), and I may have to buy the sequel after I've seen it this week. I don't know if I can even come up with a clever rating system this time... I give it four and a half angry young men in love, or four and a half hopeful promises out of five.

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