before sunrise (and before sunset)

Lately I've been whining to anyone who would listen that Hollywood seems to be incapable of portraying human relationships, specifically romantic relationships. I alluded to that a little bit on this blog last week.

But I'm good now. Late last Tuesday night, in a deserted parking lot, I lost myself in Before Sunrise. I had seen it ages ago when it was relatively new, but my reacquaintance with this masterpiece was long overdue.

If you're unfamiliar, Before Sunrise is an extremely unique movie: it follows two strangers (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train and impulsively decide to spend an evening together in Vienna. The whole movie is dialogue. Just talking. No chase scenes, no gratuitous sex, no washed-up comedians playing multiple obese characters. I know, it's revolutionary, right?

What Before Sunrise did so well for me was that it perfectly captured the dynamic of a brand-new relationship. You know, how it's all awkward when you know he's looking at you and you just can't meet his gaze or you'll turn tomato-red... or when you're not sure if it's ok to touch him... or that breathtaking moment when you know for sure he's about to kiss you. And at first you have this weird guardedness, but after a few hours you're suddenly telling him stuff you don't usually admit to family.

Another fantastic thing about this movie is that it was made in 1995... but it's not dated. It feels like it could be happening right now. Before Sunrise effectively ignores all the easy tricks that films use to convince us of their cleverness; it just portrays real humans, behaving in a realistic fashion, in a real city, in a situation that is absolutely believable. But for all this realism, the movie is still entirely magical.

Before Sunrise is one of those films that is entirely loved by those of us who love movies... and unappreciated by everyone else. It has a 100% Tomatometer rating... and it grossed only 5.5 million in the U.S. But this brings me to one of the things I love about independent filmmakers: they made the sequel, Before Sunset, anyway.

Granted, it did come nine years later, but it was so cool to see those two characters still alive and doing what they do. It did provide a bit of closure, although the ending of Sunset was nearly as maddening as the ending of the original movie...

But to find out what I mean by that, you've gotta watch 'em.
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11 Response to "before sunrise (and before sunset)"

  1. valis says:
    September 23, 2008 at 3:31 PM

    Yes, these movies are really unbelievably good.

    The first movie's ending was maddening but I loved the ending of Before Sunset. Of course, I like how Neal Stephenson ends his novels too.

    Richard Linklater is a genius for sure. Slacker, Waking Life (these two are people talk and wander movies as well), and A Scanner Darkly are also truly excellent. Waking Life has the two characters from the Before movies in a scene as well.

  2. Nayana Anthony says:
    September 23, 2008 at 3:38 PM

    I was maddened by Before Sunset's ending, too, until I remembered what Jesse said in the bookstore about the ending... it depends on if you're a romantic or a cynic. I'm a romantic. So I know what happened. :-)

  3. valis says:
    September 23, 2008 at 3:43 PM

    Yes, what happens is obvious. Only the weak need it spelled out for them! ;)

  4. Fletch says:
    September 23, 2008 at 4:52 PM

    Methinks a part of the reason Sunrise has aged so well is that it's set in Europe. All those old buildings have a way of not letting us in on when it was made.

    Love Sunrise, and I bought Sunset probably two years ago and have yet to watch it, if only because I'm waiting for a time when Mrs. Fletch and I can watch both consecutively, and we never get around to it. I don't think she's seen the first.

  5. Jess says:
    September 23, 2008 at 5:08 PM

    Oh, I love Before Sunrise. One of the most romantic movies ever made. It's nearly flawless in that it doesn't ramp you up for an epic love affair, and then disappoint, it just shows you a slow, happy, magical (cause it's all in one night) love affair. I wasn't thrilled with Before Sunsent, but I think that's because it had been 9 years since I'd seen the original, so I'd forgotten a lot.

  6. David Bishop says:
    September 23, 2008 at 6:40 PM

    I thought the endings were true to these films, which tried to capture something real. When, in real life, do we ever feel like we've reached an 'ending?' We either hope for the best or expect the worst, but I don't think we ever have such a definitive ending experience, particularly when romance is involved.

  7. Linda says:
    September 23, 2008 at 7:22 PM

    These are two beautiful films. I own both, and it's cool to watch them back to back. Some of the most engrossing dialogue on film. So well done. Thanks for writing about these.

  8. Daniel G. says:
    September 24, 2008 at 12:54 PM

    Wait a minute, what? If you loved these much as I do, and it sounds like you do, you need to get to Lagoon to see In Search of a Midnight Kiss like NOW. All I'll say.

  9. elgringo says:
    October 3, 2008 at 2:18 AM

    Wait, there's no washed-up comedians playing multiple obese characters?

    NOT interested.

  10. elgringo says:
    October 3, 2008 at 2:19 AM

    Just kidding. This is one of those "wow" movies (for many reasons). I haven't watched the sequel out of fear that the beauty of the first film would be somehow tainted.

  11. Reel Whore says:
    October 17, 2008 at 4:09 PM

    Funny, I just watched Sunset a couple of weeks ago. These are both great films, though I think I liked Sunset slightly more. The endings are so great, and like david said, real.

    My wife and I both have different opinions as to what happens in Sunset, but they're both positive outcomes.

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