Friday, July 23, 2010

Before Sunrise (1995)

USA/Austria/Switzerland, 105 minutes
Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan
Photography: Lee Daniel
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

A deceptively slight romance with a concept at once so familiar and so simple as to verge on hackneyed. American twentysomething Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) meets Parisian twentysomething Celine (played by Julie Delpy) when they are both traveling by train in Europe. After a brief conversation, Celine, on an impulse, gets off the train with Jesse in Vienna and they spend the night together, roaming the city, talking, growing closer, and ultimately falling in love. In the morning Jesse will be flying back to the U.S. and Celine will reboard the train and continue on to Paris. Jesse is naturally charming, composed of equal parts swagger and unsure timidity, while Celine is also charming, but more brash and outspoken, unwilling to trust a man but unwilling not to. Both, more than anything, are young, happy to indulge romance and idealism. They barely have money to feed themselves, let alone for a place to spend the night, but the company of one another provides all the entertainment and comforts they need—or, indeed, that we as an audience might require. In fact, for the most part director and co-writer Richard Linklater does an admirable job of staging a legendary first date, a greatest night of one's life, the sense of astonishment and joy and the continual testing and retesting of a deep and powerful newfound connection with another person. If we are lucky, we have had an experience like this in our lives, and it's not hard to recognize a version of it here: the conversation that never wants to end, happily unloading all the stories of one's short life, with startling happenstance encounters along the way, flare-ups of difference quickly smoothed over, and an unforced wandering from place to place amidst wondrous sights and experiences. The late-night weariness that occasionally threatens is quickly overcome by the energy of the connection that burns through it. But for all that, some patience and indulgence may be required here. The story amounts to little more than said date, virtually devoid of any personal context other than what one character tells the other, or stakes of any kind except insofar as they have seduced us into caring for them. And I don't know about you, but nothing Celine has to offer (let alone Jesse) much gives me any reason to care particularly deeply, beyond a general happiness in seeing others connect and do well. Speaking strictly for myself, that's not going to get me to Paris or anyplace like it without having to pay for a ticket first.

No comments:

Post a Comment