|Before Sunrise/Before Sunset (1995)|
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy inhabit their roles to a point of perfection. Delpy creates such an indelible image of a young Parisian woman (with Left Bank leanings) that she could not be anything but. And Hawke incarnates perfectly the type of inquisitive, literary, and (romantically) intense young American male who stands a chance with a woman such as we find in Delpy. The 2nd film opens with Hawke doing a reading from his own novel on the second floor of Shakespeare & Co., wedding beautifully character and setting, as Hawke is exactly the type of young American who would be at home in George Whitman's Left Bank bookstore.
An American, I spent my youth and then some in Paris. In fact, I met my wife, who is French, on a train, which is the way Hawke and Delpy meet in the first of these films. And like our two protagonists, during our ride together we wrapped each other in words and our own special dialogue, which is the right word, as we were busy creating a moment which would have no place in real life: this was, after all, only a train ride.
We knew we would never see each other again, which meant time was both our prison and our liberator, confining the duration of our experience yet setting us free within it. And, that's how things stood for four or five years, until chance (nudged along) brought us together, again.
One more thing about the 2nd film. Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke create a paean to Paris, a song of enrapture for the city that succeeds like nothing else since Hemingway and Fitzgerald lived there in the early 1920's. Unstated, it's all in the afternoon and evening light, which seems to dissolve off the screen in total realness.
The film was like an exquisite French meal of the sort you can easily find when dining out in Paris with French friends. You leave completely satiated. What has satiated you, though, beyond the food and wine which have touched your palette, is the conversation you've had with your company, built over several courses and all the pauses between. It's the conversation that you share and create together that lifts a good meal and wine to greatness. This is a relevant note as this pair of films is carried on dialogue as much as it is on beauty.
Neither film could be better; they're as good as it gets.