We'll always have Vienna
"Before Sunset," a follow-up that somewhat undermines the magical 1995 romance "Before Sunrise," is a pretty good movie that didn't need to be made.
By JOSHUA TANZER
Maybe everybody has a story like this.
It was the summer of 1992. I'd spent the day by myself in Florence where the roads seem to be paved with romance, making it a little bit extra-lonely if you're there on your own and I was just sitting down to dinner at an outdoor restaurant when an attractive young Swedish woman sat down across from me. She had gotten the wrong train from Vienna, costing her the whole day's travel and all her money, so I bought her a nice dinner. We talked, watched fireworks over the Arno, saw Michelangelo's David (the replica), had gelato, and then I took her to the train station. I slipped a few thousand lire into her ticket envelope when she wasn't looking, she kissed me on the cheek, and by midnight she was gone forever. It was the most romantic night of my life and I haven't forgotten a minute of it.
|Directed by: Richard Linklater.|
Produced by: Richard Linklater, Anne Walker-McBay.
Written by: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff, Louise Lemoine Torres, Rodolphe Pauly, Mariane Plasteig, Diabolo, Albert Delpy, Marie Pillet.
Cinematography: Lee Daniel.
Edited by: Sandra Adair.
Related links: Official site
In 1995, Richard Linklater made a perfect movie, "Before Sunrise," about one of those perfect nights. Fresh-faced young twentysomethings Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Cˇline (Julie Delpy) meet on a train, spend a magical night walking through Vienna, and part at the train station with the agreement to meet six months later in the same spot. Poof the night and the movie are over.
What happens six months later is left to the imagination which is the perfect ending, because if you answer the question of what happens next, the magic instantly evaporates. But now Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have made a sequel, "Before Sunset," which brings the two would-be lovers together nine years later in Paris to talk about what might have been.|
And "talk" is the operative word. Like "Before Sunrise" and many of Linklater's other films (including "Slackers" and "Waking Life"), "Before Sunset" is all about walking and talking. The film is an extended conversation dressed up with an occasional change of scenery. "Before Sunrise" was like a quasi-intellectual midnight dorm-room rap about ideas and life, equal parts brilliance and bullshit, bursting with hope and the intoxicating thrill of encountering a kindred spirit in a complicated world. It's packed with hope and excitement. By contrast, the conversation in "Before Sunset" is all about the past, laden with melancholy and regret.
That's not to say it's bad conversation. The film does start awkwardly, as the older, somewhat brittle-looking characters catch up on each other's rather abstract, distant lives. But it warms up halfway through and becomes watchable, even a little bit intimate. Both Jesse and Cˇline confess that the night they met in 1995 took the shine off of love and romance in the anticlimax that was the rest of their lives. "Every one of the guys I've ever dated got married. They broke up with me," Cˇline says, adding ruefully: "They call me afterward to thank me for showing them what love is." There's enough here that a thirty-something audience, mindful of the complexity of their lives and their own missed opportunities, might respond to. But there isn't much magic.
"Before Sunset" is a pretty good movie that didn't need to be made. The story that we see here was always a possible ending to the tantalizing limbo in which we once left these characters but only one of the possible endings. And by making this film now, Linklater and friends have stifled the imagination of nine years ago rather than stimulated the imagination of today.
If "Before Sunrise" is the idealized romance everybody should have, "Before Sunset" is, more or less, the mundane reality that everybody does have. In my own version of this story, I made the mistake of sending my Swedish angel a card the following year to say hello and give her my address. She ended the fairy tale the right way she never answered.
|JULY 2, 2004|
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