Friday, April 07, 2006

Before the Looming End

I have tried very hard, several times, to write about Linklater's Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Unfortunately I'm still not able to sculpt the highly emotional content of my relationship to them into something intelligible & usable for other people. I do have a certain amount of notes on these films; I do have material I can use. What I don't yet have is a writer's critical engagement (whether "critical distance" or "critical intimacy," pace some recent Sontag discussion). Consider this a 'coming attraction' for a long piece I will write ... eventually. Hopefully soon.

I will at least offer one pretty basic observation, the gist of which pleases me. At first, Celine is a romantic and perhaps even a mystical believer (she believes in love; she believes in reincarnation) and Jesse is a skeptic, a bit of a pessimist. By the second film, Celine is more world-weary, she comes across as the pragmatist and the agnostic; Jesse has softened into a romantic, himself. These aren't reversals of character: they remain "believable," they are evolutionary, developmental. But why the developments? Over the intervening nine years from their first meeting their daily mundane realities--their very personalities--have been marked by their profound subconscious yearnings into the ideal images each has of the other--which have no doubt manifested themselves in countless tantalizing dreams (cf. Waking Life).

P.S. If one goes here one can read an article on the two films by an esteemed reader of Elusive Lucidity (though that's of course the very least of his descriptors!) ...


john said...

"before sunset" is one of my favorite american films. isn't that ending just really powerful?

Portalegrense said...

Convido o autor deste blogue a visitar:
Bons Filmes e bons blogues.

Michael Guillen said...

Zach, I'm like you. I love this diptych, it keeps summoning forth from my consciousness at the oddest moments. Thought of it, by comparison, when I was watching "En la Cama." But I don't quite have my handle on it yet either. I was taught at a young age that there were different places in any story, and thus any film, whereby the reader or the filmgoer can enter. Such an entrance is equally necessary for the reviewer.

David Lowery said...

I saw Before Sunset first, and can remember just sitting in the theater after the press screening (before any buzz had started to grow), trying to wrap my head around what had just transpired. A week later, I attended a screening of both films, back to back. It was one of those experiences I don't like to diminish with words.

I'm still amazed at the erudition of Linklater, Delpy and Hawke in the latter picture - they manage to pack so many topics into the film, so many trains of thought, and yet the movie never becomes didactic; it's never reduced to a series of talking points. I think this is due to the imposition of time on the film - they only have so much time to converse, and so they have to get it all out - and, more importantly, the physically dynamic quality of the conversation. The constant movement and the constant conversation create an interwoven, self propelling sort of kineticism; when I think back on the film, that motion is intrinsic to my memories of it.

ZC said...

LMarchao - obrigado! (But my Portuguese is basically non-existent. Maybe I'll bug Gabe or Filipe Furtado to help me on this ...)

Scoot, Maya, and David, glad you all like the films. David, one of the things that makes Before Sunset so packed (and in an "organic" way) is, I think, its shorthand way of referring to what came before it, so that it can propel itself through its imminent 80-some minute trajectory while drawing upon the text of Sunrise as well as the diegetic ellipsis-content of nine years. It's a clever trick that I think serves something more serious and profound than cleverness.