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Thread: BEFORE SUNSET: A Review

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    BEFORE SUNSET: A Review

    Suave sequel: birth of a new genre

    by Chris Knipp


    Before Sunset is a movie that may look superficial, romantic, weepy, and crowd-pleasing but on the contrary is original, smart, analytical, and challenging. It stands by itself but it’s richer seen in relation to Before Sunrise, made nine years earlier, of which it’s the subtler sequel. The characters and the actors are older, more experienced and more sophisticated. It’s got a documentary element, reminiscent of Michael Apted’s wonderful 7 Up, 14 Up, series, in which Apted revisits the same cross section of English people every seven years: it’s about two people who’ve grown older and have different lives. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, who also starred in Before Sunrise, don’t have to pretend to be nine years older in this (fictional) sequel; they are. They’re only thirty-three now, but Hawke has the ravaged gauntness his breakup with Uma Thurman seems to have imposed on him; he's soulful, tempered, no longer the bright-eyed boy. Delpy is more mature, less angelic, more businesslike, but still beautiful.

    Before Sunset is a leaner film than Before Sunrise. It’s real-time, and without frills. Venues or backgrounds are simpler. Jesse and Céline largely just walk and talk. But it's all in reference to that earlier experience. The pair have a history. They live in the present, but their dialogue also implies a Proustian pursuit of "Lost Time."

    In these nine years Hawke and Delpy have become more accomplished actors; they're less self-conscious, but more self-aware. The talk flows more effortlessly. The continuity of the scenes is a seamless tour de force almost as if this were all a single take like Sokorov's Russian Ark.

    The premise is this: the couple's previous meeting on a train and their all-night idyl in Vienna nine years before chronicled in Before Sunrise is a given. They were to meet again six months later, but they did not, and not having exchanged coordinates they couldn't contact each other. Now Jesse has appeared on the radar screen by publishing a bestselling novel in the US -- and it's about that earlier meeting (it's a text version of Before Sunrise!) -- and now he's doing a reading and a signing of the book in Paris. (Hawke’s real life identity fits here, since he’s published several books.) Suddenly as he’s coming to the end of his talk, Céline appears outside the window of the bookstore (which is one every American in Paris knows: Shakespeare & Company). He’s supposed to go to the airport in a couple of hours, but his bags are packed and a car's ready, and he and Céline agree to go and talk. She leads him to a café called Le Pure. (This is real time, but not real space: the places where they go are far apart.) Then they take a boat ride on the Seine; finally they get in the car and wind up at Céline’s apartment which turns out to be in a lovely enclave where her neighbors are together outside having a party. . .

    A movie in real time consisting mostly of conversation is impossible to summarize: it would take twenty pages. But it does emerge that both still think about each other a lot; that meeting nine years before remains a moment of crucial limportance in both their lives: the flame still burns bright. Jesse did go back to Vienna six months later in the station to meet Céline as they’d promised, but her grandmother was buried on that day and she couldn’t be there. Later he says that perhaps his dream of romantic love was shattered forever by her failure to appear. They rue the fact that they didn’t exchange addresses or phone numbers.

    There isn’t flirting or a developing attraction, a growing physical intimacy, as in Before Sunrise, because that's already happened: Jesse and Céline spend most of the film talking about that earlier meeting and how it has haunted them and dominated their lives. Gradually it comes out (particularly during the car ride that leads to where Céline lives) that her current relationship is limited and his marriage is largely sexless, redeemed only by his adoration of his four-year-old son.

    She pretends not to remember that they made love that night in Vienna nine years before. Perhaps what this means is that in a sense their sudden passion never really was consummated, because their affinity was far too great for one night's sex to satisfy.

    There's little touching or kissing but there doesn’t have to be. It’s obvious that this is a climactic reunion for both of them and the attraction is as strong as ever, probably stronger – except that there are obstacles. They’re not young and free any more. They have lives, commitments, involvements. . .

    What will happen? As the film ends, its obvious Jessie is quite happily going to miss his plane. But while Linklater & Company keep us guessing, the partial answer that comes is quite charming.

    Before Sunset is a superb sequel. It’s touching but surprisingly unsentimental. And it’s as graceful a piece of filmmaking as you could ever see, with the gracefulness of art that conceals artifice. Richard Linklater is one of the most interesting younger American directors. His work is authentic and personal, but has real range, from the slacker movies through the romantic encounters of Delpy and Hawke and the tight theatrical drama Tape to the inspired philosophical musings and fresh animation of Waking Life. Hawke has been involved in four of Linklater’s movies; he and Linklater are soulmates and brothers. Delpy is an essential collaborator in the Sunset/Sunrise sequence because she too is a writer and created her own dialogue.

    The chemistry between Hawke and Delpy is too obvious to mention. . It's obvious also the audience would like another sequel, and so would the actors. It's only a question of when. The inventive Richard Linklater has given birth to a new genre: the real time sequel. In Waking Life, we briefly see the couple talking in bed. Perhaps that’s a preview of part three.



    Other Chris Knipp movie reviews at:
    http://www.chrisknipp.com/writing/viewforum.php?f=1
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-06-2004 at 02:28 AM.

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    I remember walking out of the theatre after Before Sunrise and thinking that Richard Linklater would become the American Rohmer. The movies that followed (Suburbia, the neglected The Newton Boys, Waking Life, School of Rock) evidenced more flexible skills and a refusal to be pigeonholed. With Before Sunset, Linklater has not only returned to Rohmer territory but has also warmly embraced Rohmer's methods, particularly his use of long takes with mostly improvised dialogue. Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have achieved that grace of "art that conceals artifice" (Knipp).
    I'd like to point out the economy with which the couple's encounter in '95 has been evoked, via a series of quick, perfectly-timed flashbacks early on. I imagine that those who didn't watch Sunrise appreciate it tremendously. I was glad that, having quoted from Sunrise, the artists concentrated on the present event and the past only as currently remembered.

    Walking out of the theatre after Before Sunset, I feel optimistic about the current state of moviemaking in the USA. Linklater's film and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are as wonderful as any other two films released in the same year in any nation. And it's summer! The "quality" movies usually come out in fall or winter. There are many young American directors and writers doing excellent work in both fiction and non-fiction. Too many to mention but my faves include David G. Green, Todd Haynes, Sofia Coppola, Charlie Kaufman, Wes Anderson, Todd Solondz and others. (I have yet to watch the highly praised debut Maria Full of Grace from another young American). Then there's a ton of skilled, older directors like Jarmusch, Lynch, Scorsese, Charles Burnett and Spike who have hit jackpot and will likely do that again. Do I need to talk about the creative resurgence of the documentary?

    The American Cinema hasn't been this healthy and strong since the mid 70s.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 08-01-2004 at 08:19 PM.

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    The Sunrise/Sunset series does indeed suggest comparison with Eric Rohmer. The European setting and the presence of Julie Delpy are obvious nods in a Rohmeresque direction. Linklater's pair has the same kind of intelligence wedded with lightness in considering romantic matters that you find in Rohmer, along with a distinctive personal element of American naiveté and intensity. It would surely be essential to find an intellectual grasp if we’re going to compare Linklater with the French, and you can see some in the literary allusions to James Joyce and Bloomsday in Before Sunrise, which a number of people have mentioned (see http://www.cinescene.com/shari/bsunset.htm) There’s solid intellectual matter handled with tact also in the sustained philosophical dialogue in Waking Life.

    “Mostly improvised dialogue” is something of a misnomer here for Before Sunset though, because the principals have explained that every line was completely written out initially, then cut and pasted onsite. Hawke explained this in an interview with Rebecca Murrayhttp://<a href="http://romanticmovie...062804.htm</a>:
    You and Julie didn’t improvise anything?

    We would work on the script, writing it, and then we would go to these locations. We had these things like, "Okay, how long does it take us to walk from the bookstore to the cafe?" We'd have to figure out like, "Okay, we can't use that street. We are going to have to go around over here, so we need an 8 1/2 minute scene." We would have to go, "Ok, we’ve got to cut those lines," or “All right, well, let’s pick that thing that we thought was going to be in the café and bring it in here, so that we can get from there to there to there, at the same time not just have any of it be filler.” We basically kind of wrote it as one scene and cut it apart to fit these locations. For example, we knew we needed to get from that stairway down to the sand. The first couple times we were rehearsing it, I would just goof around and ride down the thing and Rick said, “Hey, let’s do that.”
    Murray also interviewed Delpy and had this exchange:

    What were your writing contributions?

    I’d say I wrote most of my dialogue, some of Ethan’s dialogue, and Rick [Linklater] wrote some of my and Ethan’s dialogue - and vice versa. We wrote the structure and story together. We came up with the concept together. We did bring a lot of writing to the script.
    Notably also there was this exchange:
    The takes are very long. Did you know every word or improvise?
    We didn’t improvise a word. Everything was written and mapped out. Every gesture, every break in the dialogue, every moments where we look at each other – everything was written and rehearsed.
    I guess you had to be there, but it's obviously far from pure improvisation.

    Thanks for referring to the flashbacks, which I’d like to go back and study more carefully because I don't think I paid enough attention to them. It’s important to note that the new movie builds on the earlier one without being at all dependent on it; I just meant to stress that the second film is richer if you’ve seen the first, but both work independently.

    I wouldn’t disagree with you, those are some creditable American directors you mention, and we’ve had some great stuff this summer. Besides Spotless Mind and Before Sunset let’s not forget Fahrenheit 9/11 and Kill Bill 2, several other documentaries, especiallyl The Corporation; and I just came from a home group showing of Outfoxed: documentaries are contributing to the politicization of the pre-November American public.

    I’d be the last to say American cinema is unhealthy, Four or five notable films in four months is not exactly overwhelming -- there could be more fresh and provocative things out -- but as you said, it's summertime! Apropos of which, it's not like the blockbusters (Day After Tomoorrow, I, Robot, etc., aren't still doing their mind-numbing work: we’ll see what comes during Prime Time months as the year closes.

    Somebody come and tell me I, Robot was good watching. I sat for twenty minutes and everything had Bad Movie written all over it so I left.

    I'm going to see Maria Full of Grace tomorrow and I'll be curious to know your reaction as a Spanish-speaking person.

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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    There’s solid intellectual matter handled with tact also in the sustained philosophical dialogue in Waking Life.

    I was happy to watch Celine and Jesse in bed during their segment. That's the only clue I needed to justify my romantic tendencies. Their conversation was philosophical yet grounded in everyday experience. In a few short minutes they manage to ellucidate several existential arguments such as singular vs. multiple consciousness, the interchangeability of appearance and reality, the differences between dream vs. waking consciousness, and other concepts from Taoist philosophy and Tibetan Budhism. Remarkable in that it's all effortlessly colloquial.

    “Mostly improvised dialogue” is something of a misnomer here for Before Sunset though, because the principals have explained that every line was completely written out initially, then cut and pasted onsite.

    It is something of a misnomer. This "pasting onsite" implies a degree of improvisation though.

    It’s important to note that the new movie builds on the earlier one without being at all dependent on it; I just meant to stress that the second film is richer if you’ve seen the first, but both work independently.

    Absolutely. Would you also agree that Sunset is "richer" than Sunrise, perhaps simply because there's this past to draw from and comment on? (what an inelegant sentence)

    I just came from a home group showing of Outfoxed: documentaries are contributing to the politicization of the pre-November American public.

    I bought the dvd for 10 bucks including shipping. There's such demand they cannot ship until August 7th. I'd like to exchange opinions after I watch it Chris.

    I’d be the last to say American cinema is unhealthy, Four or five notable films in four months is not exactly overwhelming -- there could be more fresh and provocative things out -- but as you said, it's summertime!

    Personally, I haven't loved two American movies this much since 1995 (Crumb and Safe).

    I'm going to see Maria Full of Grace tomorrow and I'll be curious to know your reaction as a Spanish-speaking person.

    I wonder how much of the dialogue is Spanish. I'm glad they cast a Colombian as Maria for the sake of verisimilitude as accents and inflection vary widely from one country to another. A distraction watching Spanish language movies at the theatre is automatically reading the English subs. I have to make a conscious effort not to read them. I'll watch it in about a week, along with a very rare theatrical showing of a film I love called Sans Soleil.

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    It looks improvised, because it's all dialogue and the dialogue moves freely, wandering around like real talk. But you can't say it's "mostly improvised dialogue." That would undercut the effort all three put into the writing and imply something like John Casavetes' Faces or Husbands -- which involve quite a different way of working. But yes, circumstances certainly permitted a degree of improvisation. Somewhere between Cassavetes and Kubrick, I'd say, with actors wrting a lot of the script, which isn't unique but isn't done every day either.
    Would you also agree that Sunset is "richer" than Sunrise, perhaps simply because there's this past to draw from and comment on?

    Of course, you bet. That's what I meant when I said
    ". . .it’s richer seen in relation to Before Sunrise.... it's all in reference to that earlier experience. The pair have a history. They live in the present, but their dialogue also implies a Proustian pursuit of "Lost Time."

    2. I thought most of Maria Full of Grace was in Spanish till she gets to the US. My Columbian film buff penpal in Bogota' saw it some time ago and didn't mention any disparity of accents. We can soon move to the new forum for this.

    3. Sans Soleil--that's Chris Marker, isn't it? I watched it once; it seemed too scattered to me. Or maybe I was too scattered myself at the time, I'm not sure which.

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    Whoa, you liked The Newton Boys? I thought that it had been completely forgotten! Actually, my uncle was in that movie...

    Films like Waking Life and Sunrise are my favorite of Linklater's films. They manage to actually provoke me to watch the film again in the same day, which is an enormous rarity for me. Sunset's definitely something I need to see quick, but, sadly, I'm just a poor 16-year-old whose Madstone Theater just closed down. If anyone wants to donate to a less-fortunate buff...

    By the way, has anyone seen Linklater's lesser-known Tape? I hope I'm not the only one.
    "So I'm a heel, so what of it?"
    --Renaldo the Heel, from Crimewave

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    Not to change the topic of the thread but I felt obligated to respond since I also think very highly of Linklater's 'Tape.' You (Horseradish tree) are right in mentioning the fact that not too many have seen this vastly under-valued film.

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    I've seen and enjoyed Tape, but overlooked The Newton Boys, which I want to see now. I loved Waking Life. In Leth and von Trier's The Five Obstructions, you get to see more work by Bob Sabiston and I'd like to see more of that too.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-03-2004 at 03:08 PM.

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    DVD

    The dvd release date of Before Sunset is available now, it's November 9th.

    http://www.dvdanswers.com/index.php?...4690&n=1&burl=

    A 2 dvd-set of both Before Sunset and it's predacessor Before Sunrise will also be available the same day.

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    That's nice, though I already have Before Sunrise on tape. I'm glad to see Jonathan Rosenbaum highly approves of both, says nice things in one of his books about the first and published a rave about the second (which takes all Linklater's other films into consideration) in the Chicago Reader recently
    http://www.chireader.com/movies/arch.../070204_1.html

    Here he writes:
    I can't say which film is better. Both seem to fulfill an ambition Jean-Luc Godard expressed in the 60s -- to achieve "the definitive by chance." That is, each in its own way attains a kind of perfection while coming across as impromptu and offhand. This is surely a sign of the greatest mastery, an accomplishment that's plainly to the credit of Hawke and Delpy as much as Linklater and Kim Krizan, Linklater's script collaborator on both films.
    I like that in describing the style of Before Sunset he mentions Eric Rohmer, whom it's hard not to think about: "And where Linklater's cinematic models in Before Sunrise were Hollywood love stories such as Vincente Minnelli's The Clock (1945), they're now more French New Wave, Eric Rohmer in particular." To me Before Sunset seems just the sort of movie Eric Rohmer would make if he were forty years younger and an American.

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    Your link didn't work for me but I think bringing in Rohmer while discussing both 'sunrise and 'sunset' is fair. I may not see the 'energy' of Linklater's dialogue in Rohmer but I do see the similarities in thematic structure apparant in all four of his 'season tales' he made in the 90's. Now in his 80's Rohmer is actually trying out new things technically (The Lady and the Duke), may be he wants to become the young Linklater.
    Last edited by arsaib4; 08-21-2004 at 11:33 PM.

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    Try the link now; it had an extra period in it...
    P

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    It's not for me to explain what Rosenbaum meant by his comparison. I can only say that it was one that had already occurred to me, especially in connection with Before Sunset. Since both Rohmer's films and these two by Linklater consist entirely of conversation,both have the complexity of a real time story.

    You may or some may share the opinion of the Gene Hackman character in Night Moves who says he once saw an Eric Rohmer movie and as he recalled "it was like watching paint dry." But the material in Rohmer and in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset is essentially the same: two people, a man and a woman who are attracted to each other, are talking about life and about themselves and about love.

    arsaib 4, you humorously, illustrate one of Jonathan Rosenbaum's themes: that Americans all think foreigners want to become like Americans. Hence Eric Rohmer after all these years wants to become like Richard Linklater. I don't know what you mean by energy, but many of the conversations in Rohmer have considerable energy and urgency, starting with My Night at Maud's.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-21-2004 at 10:54 PM.

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    Rohmer

    It's nice to see that I'm not the only one who has difficulty describing Rohmer becaue after I just read the piece on imdb by a fan, it kind of confirms that. My difficulty is also partly due to the fact that I haven't seen most of this films and i'll be surprised if anyone here has seen even 80% of his output. And i whole-heartedly agree with Tarantino when he said that "You have to see one of his movies, and if you kind of like that one, then you should see his other ones, but you need to see one to see if you like it." (i'm surprised there's no 'alright?' at the end).

    What I saw in his quadrilogy (A Tale of Springtime, A Winter's Tale, A Summer's Tale, Autumn Tale) was a more focused Rohmer, better sketched out characters, less emphasis on dialogue and dramatic arc, may be these qualities were present in his earlier films but the ones i've seen seem rambling, not as personal. Just like Tarantino said, after watching the first of the 'tales' about 3 years ago, I sought out the rest and they didn't let me down, and this was around the same time I watched 'Before Sunrise' for the first time and now that I look back they do seem like the perfect companion pieces. I was referring to Linklater's whole filmography when i mentioned the 'energy,' especially Slacker and Tape, but you are right in saying that "the material in Rohmer and in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset is essentially the same: two people, a man and a woman who are attracted to each other, are talking about life and about themselves and about love." Well said!

    I was hoping to talk about some specific scenes from these late films from Rohmer but at this time they seem to have come together as one in my mind. May be this is the desired effect Rohmer hoped for, that people will only remember the essence of these tales, i certainly do or may be i've just seen too many films in the last 5 years to remember anything specific. I do however highly recommend this quadrilogy to anyone who is trying to see more of Rohmer, all of them are available on vhs, atleast two are on dvd.

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    In haste

    I am a fan too. I have pursued Rohmer in theaters and video stores, but I can't say my knowledge of his large output is exhaustive. Les Films du Losange is a production team that includes the following, as I just found online, and I've seen these or nearly all of them (website URL: http://www.filmsdulosange.fr/uk_cata...hp?recherche=1):

    AnniversaireEric Rohmer
    Catherine de HeilbronnEric Rohmer
    Conte d'AutomneEric Rohmer
    Conte d'EtéEric Rohmer
    Conte d'HiverEric Rohmer
    Conte de PrintempsEric Rohmer
    L'Ami de Mon AmieEric Rohmer
    L'Amour l'Après-MidiEric Rohmer
    L'Arbre, le Maire et la MédiathèqueEric Rohmer
    La Boulangère de MonceauEric Rohmer
    La Carrière de SuzanneEric Rohmer
    La CollectionneuseEric Rohmer
    La Femme de L'AviateurEric Rohmer
    La Fermière de MontfauconEric Rohmer
    La Marquise d'OEric Rohmer
    Le Beau MariageEric Rohmer
    Le Genou de ClaireEric Rohmer
    Le Rayon VertEric Rohmer
    Le Signe du LionEric Rohmer
    Les Nuits de Pleine LuneEric Rohmer
    Les Rendez-Vous de Paris (Le Rendez-Vous de Sept Heures, Les Bancs de Paris, Mère et Enfant 1907)Eric Rohmer Ma Nuit Chez MaudEric Rohmer
    Paris Vu Par… (Gare du Nord, Place de L'Etoile, Montparnasse Levallois, Rue St Denis, La Muette, StClaude Chabrol, Jean Douchet, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Daniel Pollet, Eric Rohmer, Jean Rouch
    Pauline à la PlageEric Rohmer
    Perceval Le GalloisEric Rohmer
    Quatre Aventures de Reinette et MirabelleEric Rohmer

    Another French website is more organized (I”ve skipped the short film list and gone right to the full length ones, “les longs métrages”; here is the URL: http://nezumi.dumousseau.free.fr/rohmer.htm#film):

    ** Les longs métrages ( Les films faisant partie des "cycles" portent des numéros )
    · Le signe du lion (1959)
    Six contes moraux
    1. La boulangère de Monceau (1962)
    2. La carrière de Suzanne (1963)
    3. La Collectionneuse (1967)
    4. Ma nuit chez Maud (1969)
    5. Le Genou de Claire (1970), Prix Louis-Delluc 1970
    6. L'Amour l'après-midi (1972)
    · La marquise d'O... (1976)
    · Perceval le gallois (1978)
    Comédies et proverbes
    1. La femme de l'aviateur (1981)
    2. Le beau mariage (1982)
    3. Pauline à la plage (1982)
    4. Les nuits de la pleine lune (1984)
    5. Le rayon vert (1986)
    6. L'ami de mon amie (1987)
    · Quatre aventures de Reinette et Mirabelle (1987)
    Les Contes des quatre saisons
    1. Conte de printemps (1990)
    2. Conte d'hiver (1992)
    · L'arbre, le maire et la médiathèque (1992)
    · Les rendez-vous de Paris (1995)
    3. Conte d'été (1996)
    4. Conte d'automne (1998)
    Films Récents: Les tragédies historiques
    · L'anglaise et le duc (2001)
    · Triple agent , sorti le 17 mars 2004


    And then there is the IMDb list which, of course, is purely chronological in reverse order. At the risk of sounding rather vague, I'd say that most of these are available somewhere on video, although there are some gaps for which you have to rely on special showings, one of which I saw at the Pacific Film Archive.

    I would especially recommond La Collectioneuse, My Night at Maud's, Claire's Knee, Perceval le Gallois, and The English Woman and the Duke, which would show you some of his key works and show a range of genres. Les Nuits de la Pleine Lune (1984) is interesting for being the only one I know of that shows people actually having sex. Otherwise it's discussed, but does not happen. The fun is in (almost) getting there -- or is it escaping? The retrospective at the Cinématheque Francaise (March 17-May 2, 2004) was entitled "L'art de la fugue," the art of running away. URL for the retrospective: http://www.cinemathequefrancaise.com...hmer/prog2.htm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-22-2004 at 01:53 PM.

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