Before Sunrise (1995)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Before Sunrise</strong> (1995)

(On DVD, November 2017) I came to Before Sunrise unusually, having first watched the middle (Before Sunset), then the end (Before Midnight) only to finish at the beginning of the Jesse and Celeste trilogy-so-far. This time, however, I knew what to expect: A time-compressed romance featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy at their most charming selves, having an extended conversation spanning relationships, philosophy and clever ideas. It worked well in the two latter movies and it works just as well here. This being said, I’m not sure I like Before Sunrise better than the others—it lacks the almost-real-time pacing of Before Sunset (with its masterful long shots) or the verbal pyrotechnics of Before Midnight’s most harrowing sequence. It also feels as if there are far more intrusions by third-party characters than in the other movies that focus intensely on the lead couple. But, as a first entry in the trilogy, it’s still special. Knowing how the story has unfolded afterwards, there is a profoundly ironic quality to Before Sunrise’s first scenes and dialogues, in which an old married couple argues in front of our protagonists and one of their first conversations is about jumping ahead “ten, twenty years” and being stuck in a marriage that “doesn’t have that same energy that it used to have.”  But Jesse and Celeste do have the same energy here than in later movies, and it’s a delight to just sit back and hear them exchange ideas and experiences just for the sake of it. Vienna is a good backdrop for that kind of not-so-aimless wandering (one of the final sequences of the movie shows us Vienna without Jesse and Celeste, to surprisingly poignant effect) and the entire film is quietly triumphant. I passed on Before Sunrise for more than twenty years, but it’s far better than it sounds on paper. But then again, I’m far more interested in writer/director Richard Linklater’s movies than I was before as well.

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