Recently, Phillip and I saw two very good movies in the theater: Get Out (An interracial couple spend a weekend with her rich liberal parents. It’s basically a horror movie, but it’s also something so much more.) and Life (An alien creature gets loose aboard the International Space Station and kills the crew members. It’s basically an Alien rip-off, but it’s very well made.)
We recently watched a good movie on our Netflix queue: La Vie en Rose, a biography of Édith Piaf. Phillip found this one. I enjoyed it, even though I’m annoyed by non-linear biographies. (It’s been done too many times. I no longer see the point. Just tell the story.)
We recently saw two very bad, awful, terrible movies on our Netflix queue: Wolfcop and Cabin Fever. We found both of these movies in trailers preceding other movies. In both cases, they looked like mindless, so-bad-it’s-fun entertainment. In both cases, they were just bad.
Last night, though, we watched the most amazing, wonderful film I’ve seen in years. I’ve been reading about 1995’s Before Sunrise, in film lists of masterpiece films, for years. I’ve been wanting to see it. I slipped it into our Netflix queue, along with the second and third film in the trilogy, without telling Phillip. (We both do that, from time to time.) It arrived in our mailbox on Tuesday.
I can’t stop thinking about Before Sunrise.
Two strangers strike up a conversation on a train in Europe. They bond to each other right away. Jessie (Ethan Hawke) is an American tourist. His vacation hasn’t gone as planned, so he’s been spending his remaining days riding around on trains. He’s heading for Vienna, where he’ll catch a flight back to the United States in the morning. He doesn’t have enough money left for a hotel room, so he’ll spend the night walking around Vienna. Céline (Julie Delpy) is a French college student. She’s returning to Paris, after having visited her grandmother in Budapest.
The train arrives in Vienna. Jessie persuades Céline to get off the train with him. She does, and they spend the night walking around Vienna together. And that’s the film: One hour and 40 minutes of two people talking.
They start off as strangers in an unfamiliar city. What should they talk about, and what should they see? They wander, they sightsee, and they talk. They have their first kiss, and their first argument. And they talk some more. They fall in love, knowing that, when the morning comes, they’ll go their separate ways and, most likely, never see each other again.
The power of this simple film comes from its subtly. It relies solely on the acting skills of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. They display great chemistry together.
There’s this wonderful scene, in particular, early in the night. They’re in a listening booth in a record store. Jessie is staring admiringly at Céline, who is looking off into the distance. Nothing is being said – they’re just listening to a record. Céline turns to stare admiringly at Jessie, who then looks off into the distance, as if he hadn’t been staring at her. She turns her gaze away, and he returns to staring at her. This continues for a while, with each person staring at the other in turn, but never looking at each other. It’s obvious that they both know they’re being admired, and they’re both enjoying it, but they both feel it’s too early in their relationship to actually stare into each other’s eyes. The whole scene is told through facial expressions.
Before Sunrise is, indeed, a masterpiece.
Before Sunrise was followed, nine years later, by Before Sunset, and, nine years after that, by Before Midnight.
The only downside of Before Sunset is that it made me realize that one of my favorite films, Lost In Translation, isn’t as original as I’d once thought.