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Up On The Mountain Vol. 12 . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Thursday, July 05, 2007

{Editor's Note: This is a semi-regular series of high-water mark performances that spans movies, television, books, music and life its ownself.}

To combat the noise and bombast of the summer movie season, I recently watched "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" on DVD.



These are walking and talking relationship movies which were filmed nearly a decade apart with 'Sunrise' being released in 1995. This was the same year I graduated high school, a transitional time period that may or may not have something to do with my attachment to them.

But regardless, these films represent a high-water mark for a conversationally-driven romance that feels idealized yet authentic, films that are purely about dialogue and chemistry and touch on themes big and small while letting the characters mature with age.

In 'Sunrise,' Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy play strangers who meet on a train, and after an impromptu conversation decide to spend the night walking the streets of Vienna before Hawke catches a plane back to the United States the following morning.


Nothing happens. Yet a lot is revealed about these characters who talk and talk and talk.

They talk in bars, cafes and while walking the nearly deserted late-night streets of Vienna. They discover a lot about each other in a short amount of time due to circumstances that make the whole night feel like a stolen experience because it wasn't planned or expected.


Hawke and Delpy gradually build a strong connection, and the actors have genuinely good chemistry together. I won't reveal the ending, but it feels right and true to the action that preceded it.

Nearly 10 years later, 'Sunset' finds Hawke and Delpy meeting again, this time in Paris, and once again their time is limited because Hawke is wrapping up a book tour before flying home to New York.


It's interesting to see the difference in their physical appearance from a decade of absence. Hawke appears almost gaunt with his naivety gone, Delpy looks even more comfortable in her own skin and the changes only enhance the story. The film is shot very close to real time with Hawke and Delpy trading conversation in a different European city.

The topics have changed with time, but the pair still display an ease and familiarity that was so apparent in the first film.


I have thoroughly enjoyed these films because the romance feels as real as a cinematic pairing can get (and I generally loathe romantic movies). Hawke and Delpy deserve a lot of credit as they rarely strike a sour note in both films. Overall, 'Sunset' is a stronger film, but you need to see 'Sunrise' to catch the full impact of the latter.

I actually think that Hawke gives his best performance in 'Sunrise' with Delpy owning 'Sunset,' yet the drop-off is negligible between films. Richard Linklater also needs recognition for simply placing the characters front and center, and allowing the movies to hinge on their believability.

The ability to keep these films interesting with the action coming almost solely from dialogue is a tricky and wondrous thing. I found it refreshing that there is a decided lack of irony and detachment in the films. Ideas mean things, and are valuable commodities to these characters.

It's too easy to wear an ironic smirk when dealing with weighty subjects these days. The candor and chances these movies took with minimal action and heavy dialogue paid off well in bringing one of the finest character study/romances to the screen that I've experienced to date.

If possible, the films should be watched closely to one another for maximum impact, and the sentiments expressed will continue to stand up well for a long, long time.

-BDS

14 comments

  1. JLee Says:
  2. Wow, after posting my one sentence movie "reviews" today, this one makes me feel so inadequate! haha

    Anyway, I think only certain actors can pull off that chemistry thing onscreen. Who knows if they really hate each other in real life? Maybe in the second one, Ethan was jaded by his real life experiences/pain and it showed a little. I'll definitely check these out!

     
  3. Linda Says:
  4. Thanks for writing about these, and such beautifaul images you chose to go with your comments. I saw these films years ago and agree with you. I own them both, have to revisit them after reading this. Another good dialogue-driven drama with Hawke is called Tape. The guy is a master at making dialogue riveting.

     
  5. nobich Says:
  6. I never saw either one but now you've sold me- I'll bite.

     
  7. Denny Says:
  8. not generally my kind of movie but loved both of them.

     
  9. Jlee - I felt like these deserved a little more out of me, but there's plenty that one sentence would suffice. Ha. You should check them out, but go in with mild expectations because they are small, talky movies.

    Linda - I just watched 'Sunrise' yesterday after watching 'Sunset' last week (backwards, I know), and really wanted to write about how good I think they are. I have both on DVD, and the re-visit was easily worth it. Finally, I saw "Tape" in the theater, and it was good, although I'm not sure I want to see it again if that makes sense.

    Nobich - Start with the first (even though the second is better), and I think a good, relaxed frame of mind is helpful too.

    Denny - Exactly. If you just described the plots to me, I would likely pass, but I'm very glad that I didn't because they are both excellent in their own ways.

     
  10. Miss Ash Says:
  11. Hmm if 2DP liked a romantic movie perhaps i'll take a gander....or maybe not, as they may make me feel inadequate that I did not make a connection with strangers in Vienna nor Paris.

     
  12. I've never seen either, so guess I will have to add them to my list. Thanks!

     
  13. Miss Ash - You should take a look as it's always a good time to watch movies about places you've visited. And there's always a next time . . .

    Sarcastic - They were small movies, and translate better on a TV screen in my opinion. Good rainy day viewing, but bear in mind, that it's a dialogue orgy and sometimes you have to be in a particular mood to enjoy it.

     
  14. I couldn't read the whole post. I could only read the first paragraph. Turn in your man membership dude.

     
  15. vivavavoom Says:
  16. I was very impressed when I saw the second one how true to the characters they kept it. the ending was perfect and felt right...as did all they reveal they had done in the 10 years. I know they did a lot of free form with it and they both wrote the dialogue. the only part that was disconcerting was how manorexic he was...it was almost distracting. But both the hubby (who was a huge fan of the first...and of Linklater in general) and I were nicely surprised how well it stood up. They also appeared together as these characters in 'Waking Life'.Forgot what year that movie came out.

     
  17. I saw "Waking Life" as well, but can't remember the year. And you're 100% right about Hawke's weight being nearly distracting in 'Sunset' as I can't figure out what the hell happened.

    And it was damn impressive with how well they kept to the characters, and although I generally don't like threequels, I would watch another one of these.

     
  18. WhatIgot - I should also mention that I've seen 300, Die Hard, Ocean's, etc. . . this summer and every man needs a break now and again.

    Transformers can wait a week.

     
  19. both movies were great.

    I think Deply is extraordinarily beautiful without adhering to conventional standards. To me she made turning into a werewolf not such a bad deal.

     
  20. That's a good call and description of Delpy, who I really like. And I forgot she was in that werewolf movie as I tend to associate her with these films and little else.

     

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