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Oct 04

Before Sunset

Finally got around to seeing Before Sunset, the sequel to Before Sunrise. The basic premise is that in Before Sunrise, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets with a Parisienne girl, Celine (Julie Delpy) on a transcontinental European train and, on a whim, spend a day together in Vienna. Without swapping any contact details at all, they both agree to meet back at a train station in six months, and then the film ends. Before Sunset is set nine years afterwards (it was also filmed nine years afterwards), and Jesse is in Paris – promoting a fiction book based on his tryst nine years ago, no less – when he meets up with Celine. This time, instead of 24 hours, they have about eighty minutes before Jesse has to be at the airport to catch his plane flight back to America.

At heart it’s a romance movie, but it’s one that perhaps needs an acquired taste. Essentially, the movie is 80 minutes of pure dialogue as Jesse and Celine take a stroll and a chat through Paris. The dialogue is a joy to listen to. Essentially it’s nothing special – it’s the sort of conversation that any two reasonably privileged westerners who are close friends would have. But Hawke and Delpy have an onscreen chemistry. Their conversation (Which they had a hand in scripting) flows, complete with umms and ahhs, pauses and silences. The topics covered are varied. Sometimes the transition between topics is smooth, sometimes abrupt. While sometimes the dialog feels a little too eloquent to be off-the-cuff, for the most part, it simply feels like a real conversation and not a movie conversation. Near the start of the movie, Jesse asks an everyday question along the lines of, “So what have you done in the past few years? What do you do now?” The reply is a genuine response – she gives a mundane description of her job, her studies and so on. Not every exchange is “magical” which I found appealingly realistic.

Also intriguing is observing how the characters have changed in the past nine years; just the little things. They both now smoke, Celine has changed her opinion on reincarnation, we learn about their different worldviews and so on. Of course, it’s the romance part of them that’s the most interesting. About halfway into the movie, we hear what we’ve been curious about all along: are they still single? No. Jesse is married and Celine has a boyfriend, and we suddenly find ourselves in a very Lost In Translation-type scenario.

The movie has an even more ambiguous ending than its prequel, but I did not find this lack of resolution a problem. For those that need closure, like my flatmate, who felt the lack of an ending was “stupid”, the film will no doubt make you feel dissatisfied. For me, I loved this movie. Watching it feels like catching up with a couple friends you haven’t seen for years, over coffee, except you don’t get to talk (and in this aspect, you’re basically an eavesdropper). If you think about it, listening in to strangers’ private conversations for long periods is something you just don’t do in everyday life. It’d get boring, not to mention a little perverse, after a while, but Hawke and Delpy aren’t really strangers to the audience, and they work so well together that the conversation is really entertaining to listen to. Highly recommended.

  8:20pm (GMT +10.00)  •  Movies  •   •  Tweet This  •  Comments (1)