These days, genre has been boiled down into such simplistic forms that it becomes a buzz-worthy feat when a film manages to pull off more than just a basic premise. A superhero film becomes wow-worthy if time was taken to perfect the story and actors. A comedy becomes rare if it includes a lot of smarts with the slapstick. A romance becomes one of a kind if its characters don't fit into the almost-always-used conventions.
This latter one is a true sore spot of mine. For the most part, romance and relationships have been boiled down to such ridiculous stereotypes that all romcoms sound ridiculous and anything with romance gets the "chick flick" badge. But romance isn't all that stereotypes would have you believe. It's not all clutzy or irrational women, fashion, game playing, and vast gender divides. Sometimes, the romance is even infused with smarts, success, and tangible connection. In praise of my favorite romances, I give you: Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.
The film didn't make a huge splash when it was released, but Before Sunrise was the indie conversation that came as a surprising follow-up to Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused. The greasy hair, the plaid, the overly idealistic and youthful chatter -- it was a great moment in '90s time captured (one that was much different than the torment of the '70s seniors, yet also quite similar). Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) had the conversational punch of two young people who were well-read and intelligent, but lacked the life experience to back up their notions. With the world in front of them, they were trying to follow their hearts, yet also be realistic.
But where other romances would dip into physical humor and outlandish experiences to drive the plot forward, Jesse and Celine entertained the audience by talking. It was one long date that lucky moviegoers got the chance to peek into. There were no big coincidences, exes that popped up to make things difficult, or grand passages of time. It was simply one night, and all the nerves, pressures, and idealism of two young people connecting.
Like Waking Life, Richard Linklater can be seen playing foosball.
A proposition on a train.
The unspoken moment with Kath Bloom's "Come Here."
A pretend phone call.
Hear W.H. Auden recite "As I Walked Out On Evening," which Jesse recites part of.
In between Vienna and Paris, there was a dream of Jesse and Celine in Waking Life.
The premise was interesting enough -- revisit two characters who spent one night together almost ten years ago. The execution, however, was more than anyone could have imagined. Where Before Sunrise set down a modestly memorable path, Before Sunset made it into a thoughtful, engaging, and unforgettable experience.
Jesse and Celine never met a year later like they planned. Shot in real time, this film takes them through their reconnection, and all the questions and experiences that followed the one night in Vienna. What's truly magical about this film is how the real time unfolds the story. The pair start out with the awkward chatter of strangers. Inevitably, however, the walls will fall and as they do, their conversation deepens and the real story emerges. Being able to see the whole process is a refreshing change. There was no experience from beginning to end that the audience wasn't privy to, and because of that, there's no way for the audience to not be in the thick of it, feeling the emotions rise as the secrets are released.
The average shot length in this film was 10.1 minutes.
Celine's neighbors were played by Julie Delpy's real parents. Their French exchange is here.
On the set of Before Sunrise.
Celine plays the waltz.