Lone Star Cinema: Before Sunrise


Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in Before Sunrise

In 1995, I saw Before Sunrise at the Highland movie theatre (now Galaxy Highland) with a couple of friends. I recall a discussion between us afterwards about whether we enjoyed the open, yet hopeful, ending of the Richard Linklater film (I believe the consensus was yes). The continuous dialogue between the two main characters in the film reminded me of the type of conversations I had with my own friends at the time -- so like my life. But I didn't watch the movie again ... until just recently.

In this romance, young American twentysomething Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Sorbonne student Celine (Julie Delpy) meet cute on a train. They lunch together, then Jesse asks Celine to get off the train with him in Vienna; he's heading back to the States the next morning, can't afford a hotel room and would love to have someone to chat with while walking around the Austrian city. And there you have it. Celine is fairly easily convinced (Jesse is very attractive, despite his scruffy facial hair) and spends the rest of the day and night with him.

As they converse about their dislikes, what makes them angry, birth dances, ideas of romantic love and more -- making such statements as, "Isn't everything we do in life a way to be loved a little more?" -- the couple ambles about Vienna. I've yearned to return to the city since I visited there for a couple days in college, and Before Sunrise made me wish even harder that I could afford a trip back there soon.

The film veers towards the fanciful -- Jesse promises a bartender he will mail him payment and the man gives him a bottle of wine, a street poet composes an ode to the couple, and the streets are mostly clear of traffic and other pedestrians -- and yet. The screenplay by Linklater and Kim Krizan gives the couple a certain credence and Delpy and Hawke's Jesse and Celine seem like people you just might run into on a train in Europe.

Watching Before Sunrise as a thirtysomething, I was struck by the bright young faces of Hawke and Delpy, and even more so by the naivete of their characters. I wouldn't say I'm jaded, but these kids are so dang optimistic (yet not in an annoying way). Before Sunrise is a perfect illustration of this time in these two characters' lives, as well as that moment in the '90s. Celine alludes to the violence in Bosnia, and Jesse refers to how "word processors" are supposed to be time savers (I giggled when I heard him use the term). Not that Jesse's slight cynicism or Celine's dreamy pragmatism makes their characters only of this point in time. I'm now wondering how these facets of their characters grow or change in the next two films.

Austin connections: Ethan Hawke was born in Austin, Kim Krizan lived in Austin, and Richard Linklater resides here. The third film in this series, Before Midnight, is premiering at Sundance this week.

[Still via Public Transportation Snob]