Wednesday, April 20, 2011


JOHNNY CHAZZ: Every now and then we are blessed with a film that gives us the opportunity to not only engage in the lives of a small cast, but to experience something that many of us would probably find irresistibly bittersweet. This week, I turn my focus to possibly one of the most understated and under-appreciated film in the past ten (10) years.

In 2004’s “Before Sunset”, director Richard Linklater brings both Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke to the screen in a touching story with an entrancing dialogue through and through. Thus, once again it is the screenplay that is at the very source of this film that many felt was possibly deserving of top-billing in 2004, even for a low-budget / independent film. Therefore, it is the simplicity that is at the heart of the film giving it the charm and poignancy that many feel after viewing.

The film picks up in real time years later after the conclusion of 1995’s “Before Sunrise” and continues in real time during the entire screening of “Before Sunset”. This is precisely what is so amazing about this piece of work – we spend 80 minutes with two characters and possibly lovers who spend exactly 80 minutes with one another lending to a feeling of “urgency” or “immediacy”.

I would probably have to say that there are three aspects of “Before Sunset” which really make it work on a high-level offering such an emotional impact to the audience. These are: The tone, the pacing and the mood. The tone is set in both the motivations of our two characters – that hunger and desire to make the most out of every minute so as not to regret anything that did or did not occur that one afternoon. The pacing is magnificent as the realism is conveyed in the real-time dialogue between the two characters. The mood is quite simple, really. Set in Paris and walking through the backstreets and weaving through the city at a walking-pace gives us the realism as well as the climactic build-up that audiences crave.

This film is at its core a documentary of love. It is shot and directed precisely in this manner and importantly so, with that intent. There are switches between single and two-shots throughout the entire 80-minute span. The colors and hues are surreal and straight out of a Mid-Summer night’s dream. Still, this hyper-reality and pervasive sense of urgency throughout the film is almost painful in the exact way that love hurts. This is best seen early in the film with Ethan Hawke’s character (Jesse) asks Celine (Julie Delpy) what she has been doing all of these years, but if you notice he has missed her so much that just the idea of looking her in the eye while asking the question and hearing her reply is too difficult a pill to swallow. Just ask yourself for a moment about that feeling of the walls closing-in when your time-frame is so short, but your burning desire to tell someone the truth about how you feel is gasping to come out.

Director Linlater was fascinated with the idea of re-visiting characters years later since such rich characters that we were presented within “Before Sunrise” simply kept existing in his mind creating a need for a follow-up / sequel.
 Here is a created trailer for the first film: BEFORE SUNRISE- thank you 'loq115'

With just two-weeks of rehearsal and a shooting time of only three (3) weeks, severe demands were placed upon the crew and especially our two main performers. who were given the daunting task of learning one to two-page monologues which would carry the film through from start to finish. Thus, this intense dialogue is really about what is said and what is left un-said since the audience is given the tools to read between the lines.

There are so many wonderful moments of dialogue in the film and to only choose a couple to highlight is nearly impossible. However, I must say that the line spoken by Ethan Hawke where he states “I remember that night with you better than I remember entire years” was highly impacting. Or, the simply yet sincere comment how he has spent the past 9 years looking out the car window and thinking that he sees her again. She (Julie Delpy) then counters later in the film saying that the idea that we can only feel fulfilled and complete when we are with someone else is, well…evil conceptually. She knows this is 'cat and mouse' however and the audience is far too shrewd at this point to take that comment only at face-value knowing that these are two characters that have a real chance to make something happen – a chance that most of us never, ever see again.

The bottom line is that this film is beautiful, charming, romantic and a bit suspenseful in its’ own right due to the time constraints and emotions endured by Jesse and Celine. There is no sex, only a subtle kiss at the beginning inside the bookstore, and the film lacks a single scene that we would refer to as being “action” based. The soundtrack is understated, but remains a perfect compliment to the film. The sets and interiors are well chosen and perfectly placed within the film with the Paris we never see all around us. Falling leaves, the River Seine, the cobblestone pathways and the interior of the coffee house all create a world that is ripe for the blossoming of love.

The ending? We will leave that one up to you, but it is – within itself worth the price of admission. I must say however that thoughts of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” come to mind during the entire running of the film….and that may be a give-away by itself.

Director Richard Linklater
 So again, ask yourself – was there ever that person whom you spent one hour or one day with that felt as though it could have lasted a lifetime? Who was the one that got away? If you had a second chance, how would you make the most of that limited time with that man or woman? This picture is exactly that – a love affair that is eloquently written to the point that you completely lose yourself in these characters. Thus, as we will see in our journey through this blog (Cinema: Counterpoint), there are small-budget films about little things, and big-budget films about big things. This week, I highly recommend our viewers check-out “Before Sunset” to see how a low-budget film can address what we all really want out of life – what we are inevitably searching for…love and a real connection, even if only for a moment. Those are the “big things”.

JER: Admittedly, I had no desire to see this film…it was one of those that you thought of once or twice and then… it fell by the waist-side. It may had been forgotten or just filed away under the title of: “Don’t care to see it.”

When JC submitted this topic and film recommendation…I knew I had to bear down and watch this film…objectively! At first, the film plays with wonderful conversational pieces, as pointed out by JC…however; the film gets very personal right into the first hour! Complications between the couple we would like to see come together; run into a series of obstacles. How does one pick up where one left off after too many years between them? Lives have been lived, separate relationships formed and destroyed, commitments invested to others…yet, there is no escaping a bond. Awkwardness mixes with the conjured feelings and the fights between what is accepted and deemed by society as right and wrong are all dealt with in a period of minutes.

On a production level, the film is presented by Warner Independent. As you can guess, this would be Warner Bros.’ independent branch. Shot on a low- budget, the film is delivered with the success of two separate entities: the two main actors and a wonderful, free-flowing screenplay! Both Hawke and Delpy are fabulous and most importantly…believable! This works and keeps you intrigued. As JC mentioned, the backstreets of France makes an excellent backdrop to this story. Is it cliché to say that we need the city of love to tell a fractured love story? Maybe, but the foreign landscape helps unveil a very foreign relationship... both in meaning of country and mind-set between the couple.

Seduction can be derived by consciously-placed words to formulate the right sentences needed. Time is of the essence! A flight out of France is counting down the time between our characters, yet, those conflictions and time apart may or may not stand in the way of reuniting.

Is it just me or does the film speak to us as carnal humans? Even with commitments and obligations, we lean towards what makes us happy…as Hawke tells Delpy. Commitment does not fill the void where love, attention and affection belong. Delphy replies that we spend our lives looking for the perfect match…but what does that mean and is there such a thing?

Wow…is it getting heavy in here? You bet! Splendid 1:25 minutes of compromising dialog delivered with realistic and improvised style, combined with adult situations blend into a vision of wonderment and dismay.
Here is the trailer for 2004's BEFORE SUNSET

In the end, thank you JC! I would have never had seen this film on my own desires! To our readers…if I could be converted from zero- interest to a high- recommendation enthusiast, then anyone would enjoy this exercise in the written word by great actors.

JOHNNY CHAZZ: Honestly I was absolutely compelled to recommend this film to at least a "segment" of our viewers, Jer. It is also a very safe bet that this is a film that audiences either loved or despised....and there is really no sitting on the fence with this one. Your comments here, Jer, are riveting to say the least. Knowing that we do have our differences of opinions and tastes when it comes to "genre", I am so, so pleased with the response I am witnessing here and remain both shocked and bewildered.

I recall speaking to you about my original viewing of this film back in our California days and recalling that it was a sort of film that you simply wanted to "file away". I also respected that and really never tried to push the film onto you for that very reason. Still, deep down I always felt as though you would likely find some real appreciation for what was written for this screen work once you had the chance to see it. We are both "film-guys" at heart and there are, well simply put - basic elements of a story-line, performance, mood and screenplay that we both have tremendous appreciation for. It looks as though Cinema: Counterpoint was the right time and place for us to join together on this one.

So, I concur. The film works on a basic level, but with complexities and with deep introspect into our own lives. It does encompass realism while addressing "time" as the most valuable commodity that must be incorporated just right if we are to find our one and only love (or our "perfect match" as Delpy mentioned). So, it appears as though we agree that the 1 hour and 25 minutes was well spent: In front of the screen, in the streets of Paris and alongside this "familiar" couple longing for, regretting, hoping for, and fearing the very essence of love.

Stay tuned-in everyone as we shall open up another cinematic surprise with Jer's fresh topic…until then, as always, we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY. Keep your comments and your topic suggestions coming!

Have you visited the official CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT page on YOUTUBE? Check out classic and contemporary trailers, scenes and other great trips down memory lane! Just click the link and check out the "Favorites" on our site! Enjoy!


  1. This was a very underrated movie / film and I am so glad that both of you are talking about it. My girlfriend cries every time she seees it and she has seen it like 10 times! I actually posted on your site about a month ago, so I try to check it out every week or two when I can and it is a good site for movie lovers like me. thanks for listening to my comments. (Greg from Twin Falls, Idaho.)

  2. A really good selection this week Cinema C guys. I really enjoyed BEFORE SUNSET ever more so than its' predecessor 'SUNRISE which was set in Vienna when the couple first met for that short time. This was a movie that should have won more awards than it did and is a must-see for people who have never seen it. I am only left with the hope that in a few years we might see the third trilogy of this movie when the lovers meet in another remote location similar Vienna or Paris. This movie was almost a masterpiece in my opinion. Thanks for the reccomenndation. - Ronald from GREELEY, COLORADO.

  3. Gentlemen, thank you for chiming in with your comments!

    Greg: great seeing you here again and thank you for your continued support. JC and I (Jer) feel that this is an extra special site designed for the true film fan!

    Ronald: Thank you for your comments...trilogy, you say...hmm, I can see that happening. I like that idea...hopefully, someone is listening.

  4. Loved this movie! I bought it a few months after seeing it in the theaters and still rank it as one of my favorites. @@ Mallory - Fontana, CALIFORNIA.

  5. Hi Mallory, It is so great to see so many fans coming out and expressing their love for this movie.

    Thank you for your comments and keep checking us out every week for new posts!

  6. 'Before Sunset was a very beautifully shot film and I enjoyed it as much as if not more than 'Before Sunrise. I am glad that this movie is still receiving some attention from critics.Thanks. (Robert- Mission Viejo, CA)

  7. The simple truth is that sequels tend to be bad. However, this was not the case with BEFORE SUNSET which held my interest throughout. I really like what 'Chazz says here about the feelings of 'immediacy' and 'urgency' in the film. I also like Jer's comments that the concept of the movie does speak to us as carnal humans. I enjoyed the topic this week and appreciate the blog. Thanks - (Marcus - Simi Valley CA)

  8. Thank you Robert and Marcus for commenting on this film. We feel the need to bring such topics to light. Not often discussed and forgotten over time, these films need to be preserved and recognized by those who love them. recommend them and sugguest them to others. Don't let them become lost in time!

  9. Great film! Glad to see your site recommending "Before Sunset" to everyone, it is a must-see! *Alan, North Bend, OR*

  10. This movie was a really nice sequel to the Before Sunrise film from 1994. I enjoyed both so much really. Great recomendation! I plan on watching it again this week if I can still find it in the video stores. JESSICA, LAS CRUCES, NM