Saturday, June 29, 2013
CANON OF FILM: "BEFORE SUNSET"
BEFORE SUNSET (2004)
Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke based on the story and characters by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan
More happens in the final two words, of “Before Sunset,” than happens in most movies. The fact that this is done subtly and not obviously, reveals the greatness of Richard Linklater’s directing and storytelling in a film, that for all intensive purposes is just one long conversation between two people. The sequel to “Before Sunrise,” which I previously placed in the Canon, you can find the link to that below:
For that review, I had written on and told two personal stories of my own about chance encounters, a road not taken, and one that was. In the first film, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy, who both received Oscar nominations along with Linklater for this film’s screenplay) spent a dreamlike day and night in Vienna when they were 23, promising to meet at the Vienna train station in six months, despite neither knowing their addresses, phone numbers or last names. (Jesse’s we learn is Wallace) Jesse is now in Paris, doing an interview in a bookstore, where he has written a bestseller about that fateful night, and he looks up to see Celine, standing there, and soon after, their conversation begins all over again. We learn what happened to them, what actually happened that night they were supposed to meet in Vienna, and a little bit more about their private and personal lives that we or they never knew before, but the conversation is slightly more restrained. They have only a very little time to talk before Jesse must go to the airport, (the movie is only 77 minutes long) and back to the states, and Linklater’s directing makes the movie feels as though it’s one, non-stop continuous conversation, often having takes last as long as six or seven minutes. We learn that Jesse is married with a kid and Celine studied all over, including New York City, at a time when Jesse was living in New York. She now works for a non-profit organization, and lives with her cat, and like Jesse becoming a writer, she dabbles in the arts, singing and playing guitar. They talk about numerous other things, as they travel from the bookstore, through gardens and alleys, and to a local cafe, and onto a ferry to look over Paris, often times choosing their words very carefully with each other, like the ways adults do, making sure not to say the wrong thing and not to reveal too many emotions, but eventually things will start coming out, in ways that rings true to what we feel are their thoughts and desires, as both characters struggle to find out whether or not they were meant to be together or just meant to have long thoughtful conversations in exotic European cities, in warm climates, to quote Celine. Eventually, after much walking and talking, they make their way to Celine’s flat, where she plays an old Nina Simone CD and continues their conversation over tea, and music. The ending is considered a testament to the power of free will, and it is. The first movie was about a choice made in the beginning with a promise made at the end, here the characters are now too smart to promise anything to each other, but a choice is made at the end that will effect much more than maybe either character wants to realize. This is great writing, and great acting having to make scripted dialogue seem completely real and spontaneous. As I realize how truly rare it is to not only have friends or lovers, but people who I can connect with at all, the more I realize how masterful this film is. This ballad of Jesse and Celine, will hopefully continue nine years from now, and if it’s half as good as the first two, it will be a masterpiece.
Note: When I wrote this originally, a couple years ago, I was still only hoping it would continue. Now, nine years after this film, have passed, and it has, with the third film of the series, “Before Midnight”. And hopefully, nine years from now, we'll get a fourth film, and if it's half as good as these three are, it'll be a masterpiece.