Successful author Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is on the last stop of his book tour in the famous Paris book shop Shakespeare & Co on the Left Bank, when he sees Celine (Julie Delpy), now an environmental activist, watching from the back of the room. He cannot believe it. After all, it has been nine years since they met on a train to Vienna, when they spent a memorable 14 hours together in conversation and lust. Filled with romantic notions, they had promised to meet again in six months. There is a little time before Jesse's plane home to New York, and he wants to make every moment count, with the girl who has been in his dreams for such a long time, as well as being the inspiration for his book.
Review by Louise Keller:
Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise in 1995 introduces us to Ethan Hawke's Jesse and Julie Delpy's Celine, who meet on a train between Budapest and Vienna. They start a lengthy conversation that leads to passion and ends on a promise to meet again. Now, nine years later, Jesse and Celine meet again in Before Sunset, when the conversation continues, and memories are rekindled.
Shot in real time and unrestricted by the boundaries of plot and structure, Linklater's concept is simple, yet so effective as we essentially become part of Jesse and Celine's conversation. Contemplative, exuberant, funny, touching and revealing, their conversation is about nothing in particular, yet it is about everything that's important. From the philosophical to the intimate, the conversation is all about the connection between them.
Linklater, Hawke and Delpy have collaborated on the script, resulting in an enthralling snapshot of life from the point of view of two like souls who spark by just being in each other's presence. They joke and laugh as they reminisce. 'Do I look any different?' Celine asks Jesse over coffee and citron presse in the iconic surrounds of Le Pure Cafe in the 11th arrondissement. 'I'd have to see you naked,' he jokes. We get a sense of being in Paris with them, as they walk to and from the coffee shop, through the gardens, onto a tourist boat on the Seine, in the car and walking to her apartment, talking all the while. They discuss the pros and cons of ageing, violence, the environment, Buddhism, ghosts, reincarnation, god, song-writing, magic, the universe, chestnuts, love, trust, remembering and personal revelations about sex.
Jesse confesses his superficially perfect life is painfully hollow, while Celine shares her fears of intimacy and her disillusionment of life. This is one script that does not in any shape or form feel like a script. It is as though we are eavesdropping, voyeuristic at times. But always, we feel connected to them, learning more and more about them as each minute goes by. 'Memory is a wonderful thing, if you don't have to deal with the past.'
Hawke and Delpy are inspiring in superb naturalistic performances, and there's an especially poignant moment when Delpy sings the song she has written ('A little waltz about a One Night Stand). The simplicity of the lyrics combined with the catchy variation on three notes allows us to understand how deep are the emotions behind it. (Delpy has written and performs several songs through the film)
The Paris bookshop is cosy; the café at the end of the cobbled street has sunshine streaming through the window; the gardens through which they walk are green and beautiful; the trip down the Seine behind Notre Dame is conducive to romance; Celine's apartment exudes a joie de vivre with photos and books everywhere. There is such a strong sense of place as the camera rests on Jesse and Celine as they talk and walk and talk.
Our curiosity is fuelled and tension builds as the time draws near for Jesse's plane. Where is the story leading? Like real life, there are many imponderables, and the 80 minutes we have spent with Jesse and Celine have been unforgettable.
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BEFORE SUNSET (M)
CAST: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
PRODUCER: Anne Walker-Mcbay
DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater
SCRIPT: Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke (Based on characters created by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lee Daniel
EDITOR: Sandra Adair A.C.E.
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Baptiste Glaymann
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 26, 2004