It has been brought to my attention by more than a few people that, despite my love for film (and degree in it to boot) I have serious holes in my movie education. Namely, there are those movies that everyone who knows anything about movies should have seen, and I find myself sheepishly admitting to have never watched. Even though I know it's not uncommon, even among film nerds like myself, it's still a sore spot.
Apparently, I'm not alone. Ryan at The Matinee started "The Blind Spot Series" where he, and other members of the film blogger community, write about their own cinematic blind spots. I've decided to begin joining in on the discussion, and this month I'm tackling the first in an indie-trilogy that has spanned decades.
For as long as I can remember I've been a hopeless romantic at heart, and for almost as long I've been told to watch Before Sunrise, which was followed up by both Before Sunset, and the recently released Before Midnight. I don't believe that there will be any more films in this series, but if there are I hope it's set in a retirement home, and I hope it's called Before Noon.
There's a reason why so many people love these films, as I learned when I jumped in to Before Sunrise. It is realistic and fantastic, aspirational and honest. It's almost entirely dialogue based, with nothing in particular happening of note, and yet it spins a web from which the viewer cannot (and doesn't want to) escape from.
Before Sunrise, released in 1995, tells a story that may sound a little familiar: two strangers meet on a train. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is an young American who chased a girl to Europe and was promptly dumped. He decides to take his broken heart on a detour to Vienna before heading home to America. Celine (Julie Delpy) is a young French woman who is returning from a visit with her grandmother. The two end up sitting next to each other on a train, and strike up a conversation. When the train arrives in Vienna, Jesse put it all on the line and asks Celine to get off the train with him and spend the night wandering Vienna with him until his morning flight home. Most women would probably find this an ill-advised adventure, but Celine decides to take the risk. The two wander aimlessly around Vienna, talking about everything: politics, religion, relationships, family, and yes- love.
We all know (as do Celine and Jesse) that the night will end and the two will part ways, their destinations oceans apart. Even with that clear and established expiration date, or perhaps because of it, the two fall in love. The beautiful little moments that make up every relationship seem crammed into the span of only a few hours, and the chemistry between the two becomes undeniable. But, sadly, morning comes and the two must part. They decide not to exchange numbers, in their youthful naiveté, and promise to meet each other exactly six months later in exactly the same spot.
But did they ever meet? I imagined myself seeing this film in 1995 and screaming "No! Did they meet!? WHAT HAPPENED!!!???"
Writer/Director Richard Linklater very cruelly made audiences wait a full 9 years before answering that question with his follow up Before Sunset, and I won't answer that question for you here, either. You'll have to wait for my next review!
The film isn't about what happens next, it isn't even about what happened before. It's about two young lovers, in the prime of life, experiencing a beautiful city together in the moment. The long takes and dialogue-heavy storyline are so far from what Hollywood usually delivers, and so honest in it's simplicity. Celine and Jesse exist in that blissful period we all experience in our early twenties: a time of self-discovery, political exploration, and blind love.
Is there a film you haven't seen that you know you should have? What movie should I watch next? Let me know if the comments below!