Dir. Richard Linklater
80 min; Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
"Memories are wonderful things, if you don't have to deal with the past. "
Before Sunset is a wonder. An hour and half jaunt through Paris with two people you know and love. Intelligent, but heartfelt; Films like this are a rarity these days. It's perhaps the smallest most intimate film on my list. It seems so real that afterwards it almost hurts to think about it.
When I heard that Richard Linklater had a new film coming out, I was ecstatic. Linklater is one of the best filmmakers working today. Last year I had his mainstream Jack Black-vehicle, School of Rock on my top ten list. The fact that another of his films has made my list this year, but with such a diffferent feel and genre is a testament to his excellence. While School of Rock made me laugh; Before Sunset made me laugh, cry, and love.
Before I went to see the film I knew that I had to see his 1995 film, Before Sunriset in which Ethan Hawke's Jessie and Julie Delpy's Celine meet on a train and on the spur of the moment decide to spend the night in Vienna together, seeing the sights and talking about life, before Jessie has to catch his plane back to America. The film ends with them agreeing that they will meet in Vienna in six months. The film was magical. The characters seemed so real. The kinds of things they talked about fascinating. The fact that I watched the film the night before going to see the second film meant that I was spared 10 years of wondering what happened to the two characters; Spared from agonizing over whether they actually ended up getting together or what.
Fortunately Linklater, Hawke and Delpy all decided that there was more to be said and they wanted to explore the characters more. The second film begins 10 year later. Jessie is in Paris on a tour for his book, detailing that magical night 10 years earlier. Who should he see standing in the back of the store but Celine. He arranges to spend the afternoon with her before catching his flight, and so we are ready to hear about what has happened to them in the meantime. Did they ever end up in Vienna that fateful Christmas? What will happen between them now? It's wonderful and painful. Full of realism and romance. And the ending of this one is perhaps the most perfect ending of the year.
It's rare to encounter a film like this one that is so real. I've only seen it once and yet I feel like Jessie and Celine are dear friends of mine and I care deeply about what happens to them. The acting and dialogue is so natural. It's astounding. They talk and act like real, intelligent people. I actually care about them.
I don't know what else to say about this film other than that you must see it. Here's hoping that in ten years Linklater, Hawke and Delpy will give us another shot at seeing what ever happened to our good friends.
Note on Top Ten lists: Top Ten lists are in many ways such an arbitrary thing. Due to the nature of such a thing, I'm forced to order these things. I just wanted to say that my top six films on this list are all such great films that I love them all. I also realized that merely doing a Top Ten wasn't enough, so after the Top Ten I'm going to have a couple of special jury prizes. So there's still more to look forward to.