Friday, July 30, 2010

Before Sunset (2004)

USA, 80 minutes
Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Kim Krizan
Photography: Lee Daniel
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Nine years later, in the story and in reality, our heroes meet again. The rendezvous they had planned for six months after their wonderful night, agreeing to meet again in Vienna, never came off, at which point they had no way of reaching each other again. That's one of the problems with extravagant romance. Too many pitfalls. Now thirtysomething Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) has written a moderately successful novel based on that night and is in Paris to give a reading, at which thirtysomething Celine (played by Julie Delpy) surprises him by showing up. He must leave for the airport that evening to fly home, but almost immediately they pick up where they left off, and if the years between have not been very hard on either one they have not been so kind either. They have been fortunate in their careers and material circumstances, but Celine has gone from one unsatisfying, vaguely distant relationship to another, while Jesse finds himself trapped in a loveless marriage. This is by far the better of the two Before Sun--- movies Linklater has made about them, and it's so good that it even tends to redeem the slender offerings of the first, instantly creating a context that widens and deepens both. Jesse and Celine are still young, in their early 30s, but life has already begun to work its erosions on them—which instantly, and profoundly, creates the stakes that were never there in the first adventure. Now they both know too well, and indeed acknowledge as much explicitly to one another, that the kind of opportunity they once found with one another does not often come along, and must be seized when it does. Unless, that is ... unless it's just another cruel false illusion—could that be? The kind they both also know so well now. As do we all; and here is our connecting point. After all, they only had that one night in Vienna and, now, this one afternoon in Paris. Is it real? How much do they really know each other? How can they know? And so they cling to one another instinctively, almost desperately, unwilling to part, fondling the connection, nervously joking and deeply engaged and occasionally sparring out of doubt and pain and insecurity, but never without an unmistakable sense of the ludicrous, even dangerous, rightness of it. They open up to one another so beautifully. He tells her how he was thinking of her on his wedding day, thought he saw her even. Her face grows quiet. It might have actually been her. Inevitably they end up at her apartment, where she plays him a lovely song on her guitar. "Baby," she tells him, "you are gonna miss that plane."

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