Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Before Sunrise (1995) - Review

This is a sweet romantic movie I have seen in a very long time.

Director Richard Linklater, with BEFORE SUNRISE, has created a special dialogue-driven dating movie. Throughout, most of the film, the intrinsic story follows a cute young couple through a long, first date. A French graduate student, Celine (Julie Delpy), and an American boy, Jesse (Ethan Hawke), meet on a Budapest-Vienna train. It starts with a contingent encounter in the afternoon on the train, and goes throughout the night and until the early morning, turning into a 14 hour date.

Considering that Linklater's previous films were SLACKER and DAZED AND CONFUSED, BEFORE SUNRISE is a surprisingly mature work. One of the film strengths is that it captures the flavor and fluid structure of a first date, hooking the audience with "intriguing conversations" and the couples' spontaneity. You get to know the characters as they get to know each other, just like a first date, "as the two share in their love for the unrehearsed and their appreciation for the unexpected as they explore in a powerful meeting of hearts and minds."

The well cast movie has cute romantic moments. My favorite scene, takes place early on in the film, on a train. Charming young passenger, Hawke, makes an amazing pitch for Delpy to spontaneously get off the train with him, involving time travel and her future regret about missing an opportunity to spend time with the "right guy." It's the kind of crazy pitch that only a young guy would try, and only a young girl would go for. Oh to be young!

Lee Daniel did a terrific job with the cinematography, especially with his effective lensing of the atmospheric Vienna locations, which enhances the viewing experience.

BEFORE SUNRISE must be popular with people who enjoy romance films, that are unpretentious and grounded in realism. Although the pacing is slow at times, it's congruous, creating the right overall mood of the all-night date. "Before Sunrise" even has suspense, making the viewer guess if the couple will end up with each other. Romantics will be well satisfied by the ending.

We then see them condense the entire course of a relationship into less than 24 hours, with all the usual landmarks (the initial goo-goo eyes, the first kiss, the first fight, etc.) played out against the sumptuous Viennese backdrop. Hawke is engagingly goofy and Delpy, despite a tendency to overplay the intellectual waif card, is more than a match for him. See it with someone you love. Even better, see it by yourself and pick up a total stranger in the lobby afterwards. :)

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