I got off track there about puke. It's easy to
do. But what I want to talk about is mad, all-consuming, obsessive
love. Have you ever loved someone so much that you'd do anything
he or she asked? No questions asked: she calls after many years
and says "Help me rob a bank." And you say "Okay." If it were
regular old love, you'd ask questions like "which bank?", "who's
driving?" and "again?" But this is the one person who, even if
you haven't spoken to her for ages, you'd drop everything, put
pantyhose over your head and pack heat.
This sort of love is usually a one-way street.
From my own experience, I know that most of the time only one
person in a pair is wildly in love. Many times, I would tell a
girl how badly I needed her and her response was silence. Or,
worse, "Eeeeeewwwww." This didn't make me love her less. I just
spent meven more time trying to figure out how to make her feel
as intensely as I did.
Before Sunset is about mad love, except
it's not just one in a pair who feels it. Both are madly in love.
The movie follows up Before Sunrise, a movie made by Richard
Linklater ten years ago about two college-aged people played by
Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. They meet while touring Vienna and
spend one night, falling in love and departing on their trains
at sunrise. They promise to meet again in the exact same place
six months later. They were so confident in their love that they
didn't exchange phone numbers or addresses. For some idiotic reason
they thought it would be more romantic to leave it to providence
that they would meet again. That movie didn't say whether they
did meet up again as they promised, leaving it to the viewer to
decide. Apparently, if you're a romantic you imagined they did.
If you're a cynic you imagined they didn't. Personally, I figured
they both got mangled in horrid car crashes and thought themselves
too hideous to ever be loved. And so they went into the sewers
to live and raise mutant babies who would only come out at night
to feed on virgin flesh.
Nine years later, my guess was about right for
Hawke. he didn't get hit by a car, but he definitely got mauled
by rats. A decade ago he looked weaselly, but now he looks weaselly
and gaunt, like his edges were nibbled by horses, and then they
left their teeth in his mouth. As Before Sunset begins,
he is in Paris signing his new novel, which happens to be about
a couple who meet and spend a night together in Vienna, and then
part with the promise to meet again. At the end of the signing,
Delpy comes into the bookstore. She lives in Paris now. Hawke
has an hour before he must go to the airport to catch his flight
back to the States and all the grown-up obligations he has there.
The movie unfolds in the real time that Hawke has before his flight
Delpy and Hawke's interaction at first is uneasy
and awkward; it's what you'd expect from former lovers who never
made contact after that one night. They poke around, seeing how
the other feels now, as well as how they feel. Is it still mad
love? They have thought constantly about each other, but will
the real person live up to the idealized image that was burnished
into their minds for ten years? Or will they have changed too
much to be the one the other loved? It's a good question. Ten
years is a long time. People change. More importantly, their situations
As they walk through Paris, the old love is rekindled.
Delpy and Hawke realize that even though the years have made them
different in some ways, they are ultimately the same people andstill
drawn to each other like moths to a bug zapper. Except, it's not
as cool when the people connect. Seriously, I can watch a bug
zapper for hours. As they talk, the conversation becomes more
natural. They peel away the layers of defense they piled on over
the years until they've finally become the young lovers again.
Before Sunrise was a celebration of the
time the two spent together. It was really fucking romantic, the
kind of movie that was so genuinely sweet it made me wish I had
seen someone I loved. That way I wouldn't have ended up giving
myself hickies. The entire movie is about Hawke and Delpy squeezing
as much enjoyment as they could out of their time together. And
that time would become pleasant memories with the promise of more
later. Before Sunset ain't romantic. It's something else,
maybe wistful. While the two lovers enjoy each other, there is
sadness in it because both know their time together is finite.
There is an inherent sadness, I think, to any
pleasurable experience that has to end. Like sex. Who doesn't
think about how shitty it is that sex can't ever last longer than
30 seconds? Then it's over. And if, while you're doing it, you
become obsessed with the end of it, that spoils the joy of the
Neither the characters Delpy nor Hawke play are
people I'd want to hang out with much. Hawke is a dork, and not
very clever. Delpy is too neurotic and careful not to let go.
But that's beside the point. The movie does a hell of a job making
it believable that they'd be madly in love. The movie is profound,
but it seems simple. It's less than an hour and a half and it
is one long conversation. Not everything they say is interesting
to me, but it's interesting to them. And that was good enough.
Of course, it's a Richard Linklater movie, and
like his other movies, he makes his characters spell out themes
that would be better acted out. He's obsessed with big ideas and
having characters say them to show us all he's thinking about
them. That's the movie's only major drawback, though. Before
Sunset is not necessarily romantic because it doesn't sugarcoat
the messy entanglements inevitably people get themselves into,
but I guess it's a good movie for people who think about romance.
It made me feel sort of nice and sad, and that's a pretty good
second to horny and sad in my book. It's like Luna's song "Sleeping
Pill", or the story "Rebecca Lizard" by Donald Barthelme,
and that's pretty fucking good company. Four Fingers.