Thursday, August 13, 2009

Before Sunset: Nine Years Later...

richard linklater,ethan hawke,julie delpy,before sunset


Nine years after Before Sunrise, Richard Linklater reunited with Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, and Kim Krizan (all credited for the screenplay this time) to make Before Sunset. The film takes place more or less in real-time, and is set 9 years after the original. It also was released in the wake of Hawke's extremely public celebrity divorce from Uma Thurman, which I'm sure was commented on quite a bit at the time. It was a pretty good movie, and lacking some elements from the first, but bringing some new elements, as well.


The original film had that ambiguous ending, and we get to find out here what happened. It has its own ambiguous ending, though, so it evens out. It has a lot of similarities to the first, especially cinematography, a heavy focus on only two characters and dialogue, and a lack of soundtrack, other than diagetic music from their surroundings. There are only a few real major camera movements, and it sticks primarily to steadicam shots following them around Paris.


The plot is simple: Jesse is now an author, having published a novel based on his encounter with Céline in Vienna. His last stop on his book tour is the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. When he gets close to the end of his Q&A session, he notices Céline there. They talk, decide to go get coffee, and spend the rest of his time in paris together. He has to catch a flight back to the States at 7:30 that night, and so they only have a few hours together, which takes us through the rest of the movie. They wander around paris, go to a coffee shop, talk at length, catch up on what transpired since Vienna, and discuss marriage, children (Jesse has a wife and a son), religion, politics, his novel, her music, and many other things. It turns out that Jesse went back to Vienna six months later, as they planned. Céline, however, did not; her grandmother passed away a few days before the scheduled meeting, and she couldn't make it. Jesse wrote the book in hopes of seeing Céline again. It ends without a real resolution as well, where we don't know if Jesse will make his plane back to the States, or not.


ethan hawke,julie delpy,before sunset


Jesse is still a romantic cynic, not really believing that his novel's bestseller status means as much as it could. He's dissatisfied with the level of literacy in America, and feels that his novel reflects that. Céline is dissatisfied in her love life, and they both have idealized the one night they spent together. They literally tell each other that they've never been as happy as they have in that one night, and they have each carried the memories of one another throughout the last nine years. Jesse has dreams with Céline in them, where he imagines her in the place of his wife, and he's in conflict with the implications of that idea. He loves his son, but doesn't feel that he can love his wife the way that he should, and mostly because of his night with Céline.


She feels that the night took something away from all of her following experiences, being idealized to the point that it affects the way she experiences her other relationships. She resents the idea that most of her boyfriends get married after they date her (Jesse included), though she isn't certain that she would have wanted to marry them. We see that both characters are just as insecure, uncertain, and confused as they were in their 20s, and their lives are no less complicated with age, as they seemed to predict in the first film.


julie delpy,before sunset,ethan hawke


It's somewhat more somber and less hopeful than the original, though I suppose that's a commentary on the idealism of Generation X in the 1990s, and suddenly find themselves faced with real-world issues and responsibilities in the 2000s. Their chance meeting seems to have been a missed opportunity, and despite his cynicism, Jesse returned to Vienna (owing his father $2,000 in the process) to meet with Céline, only to be alone. This leads him to his marriage, even though he clearly doesn't feel as strongly for her as he does for Céline. She regrets missing their arranged meeting, but was hopeful that he didn't show up either. His novel dredged up those memories for her, and made her irate and frustrated at him as well as herself.


It's a great movie! Check out Before Sunrise and then check out Before Sunset. They're both pretty good, and it's interesting to see the differences in the actors as they've aged as their characters have. I give it four Parisian streets out of five, or four ambiguous endings out of five.

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