Last night, whilst a thunderstorm raged outside, I enjoyed the absolutely perfect Before Sunset — rarely is there a sequel that is the absolute equal to its predecessor. With these films you cannot say one is better than the other.
The premis for both is simple, and on the face of it, admittedly dull. In the former, two college students (played by Julie Delphy and Ethan Hawke) meet on a train going across the Europe, and break their journey in Vienna, wandering the streets, and talking. In the latter, the characters meet up in Paris by chance nine years later, at Jesse’s (Hawke’s) book signing, in 80 minutes filmed in realtime, they wander round Paris, and talk…
The first film ends on a cliffhanger. The second film two. But in both cases, you are not left wondering what happens, rather it’s like just cutting off the story at the point where the past meets the present and you just don’t know where it goes after that. It is for everyone’s own personalities to decide what kind of ending it’s going to be, and makes it incredably satisfying because of it.
In Before Sunset, the film opens like a reverse of the former film, shots of the locations that will form the the backdrop to the conversations that follow, mirroring the shots of the locations that had been the setting for the conversations at the end of the last film. The opening dialogue sees Jesse taking questions at his book-signing, and his style of answering reflects the intelligent, analytical style of his musing in the first film. The way that he
describes his next novel mirrors exactly the enthusiastic way in which he describes an idea for a real-time world-wide tv fly-on-the wall documentary in the first film.
There is no sex in this film, and yet it is incredably sexual. It’s romantic but not smultzy. It leaves you wanting more, but thoroughly content with the story.
…and then following the movie, as I walked back through Jericho, past OUP, I pass oxfordslacker and tinyjo on the other side of the street as I discuss the film with myself. *grins* I don’t know, but I find that chance meeting a very Before Sunset moment.