friday film:
before sunrise (1995) / before sunset (2004)

Movie poster from here.

Before Sunrise (1995)
Before Sunset (2004)
Ethan Hawke * Julie Delpy
Directed by Richard Linklater

These are two movies I love so much, I decided to watch them at least once every year.

Before Sunrise was released in 1995. It was a day in the life of American guy Jesse and French girl Celine, young strangers who met in a train and went on a "whim-date" in Vienna. Their unexpectedly meaningful time lasted only until the morning, when each of them parted ways on their trips home. Each one left with a piece of the other.

Before Sunset was filmed and released nine years later, featuring the same two characters, also set nine years later. Jesse and Celine bump into each other again in Paris - all grown up, i.e., less romantic, less idealistic, more cynical due to the seasoning of age and experience. They had only a little over an hour to spend with each other since Jesse had to fly back to the US in a while. As they caught each other up on what happened in the past nine years, they revealed that their previous and only other encounter was a landmark in both their lives.

In the time before Facebook, it was next to impossible to find people you've been estranged from - particularly a beautiful stranger you serendipitously meet in a foreign land - and especially so if the only thing you have to go by is a first name. These stories play on the what ifs that so many people are familiar with - what ifs concerning chance encounters and the one that got away.

They aren't your usual romantic flicks, by the way. For one thing, they don't have the usual gush-and-shudder cues, and there are no i love yous. They quite "feel" like art films because of the pregnant silences and the long, philosophical, tartly humorous [but no-nonsense] dialogs.

The scripts have a singular basic, linear plot - it's just two people talking while walking around. But the viewer's interest is captured by the intelligent exchange between Jesse and Celine, as well as the things that they didn't say. Both Hawke and Delpy were excellent at the non-verbals.

Ethan Hawke has always been one of my favorite drama actors since I saw him in Dead Poets' Society around two decades ago (I love how he does facial expressions, especially that yearning-pining thing he does with his eyes). He was pretty hot stuff back in the '90s and did a couple of youth-oriented movies; he's practically a Gen X mascot. He's gotten quite skinny and wrinkled up lately (which is very apparent in Before Sunset - the lines on his forehead and around his eyes kinda suggest he's done a lot of worrying or has not invested in a good moisturizer). He's not as good-looking as he used to be, but he's still quite attractive.

Delpy and Hawke in "Sunset"
Photo from here.

By the way, it's so hard to admit that that haircut used to be cool. Most guys looked like that in the '90s,

Got it here.

And watching Ethan as Jesse reminded me of how guys used to tuck their shirts into high-waisted jeans (I mean, if they weren't into the low-waist thing). They completed the look with sneakers or sandals worn with socks. But seeing it now makes me gag.

Julie as Celine wore a long, casual, spag-strapped dress with a plain shirt underneath - which is sooo markedly '90s too. She even threw over that ratty-looking, button-down long-sleeved plaid shirt a la Seattle grunge band that wouldn't normally go with a dress.

Image from here.

It looks ludicrous now, but that actually used to make sense. That's how we used to dress, and yes, that was absolutely cool. It is now considered ugly to wear a shirt under a sleeveless dress because the in thing is to show off your shoulders. And to wear a plaid dishtowel is a crime.

[SPOiLERS HERE] Sometime during their all-night conversation in Sunrise, Celine and Jesse agreed to preserve the mystery of their chance encounter by not keeping in touch. But then they seemed to have developed some sort of attraction, and at the very last moment, just before Celine's train departed, each of them confessed that they wanted to see the other again. I don't know how or why anyone in a similar situation would not consider getting the other's phone number. Instead they came up with a not-so-simple plan of meeting again the next year. Naturally, that open-ended goodbye was more romantic and mysterious - and gave a premise for a sequel. The sequel in turn fed on the heartbreak of the second date that didn't happen.

I was thinking that if that first movie was set in 2010, that whole conundrum could be more easily avoided with today's social networking sites. If Jesse didn't have time to produce a pen and paper to get her number, Celine could have just given Jesse her last name and said in her cute little French accent, "Search for me in FB, s'il vous plait," and there, problem solved. It would have then been easier to give each other a chance. But of course there wouldn't be anything tortured and dramatic enough for a second movie, hahaha.

I know some real people who have used FB to find the one that got away, or an ex from an abruptly-ended relationship - not really to try date again, but mostly just to get some closure, apologize, forgive, explain what really happened and so on. Wait ... coming to think of it, I do know a guy who tried to have a long distance relationship with the one who got away, relying on FB to contact her. Like Jesse and Celine's, it was a last-minute thing that sparked just before the girl had to move to another continent. It didn't work out, but at least they don't have to grow old suffering those what ifs, because they were actually able to give each other a try.

Anyway. I don't really know how to wrap this entry up, so lemme just end with this:

The not-so-moral lessons of this story are:
  • Have a Facebook account because that's how people connect these days. If you don't have time to get a person's number, a last name may do fine unless it's a really common name.
  • Take good care of your body because you may not be half as cute as you were when you were a young adult.
  • Don't fall in love with random beautiful people in a train crossing Europe because it will end up in heartbreak.
  • Do grab your opportunities as they come by because they may not happen again until after nine years, and by then it may be wrong for you to.
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