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Posts Tagged ‘Before Sunrise’

I had heard rumours a couple of years ago that Richard Linklater was working on a follow up to Before Sunset (2004) but didn’t hear anything else until someone mentioned that it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month, now called Before Midnight. Given that there were nine years between Before Sunrise and Before Sunset my first reaction was that it is too soon to make a third film. Then I realised it has been nine years since Before Sunset, then I felt old! When before Sunset came out in 2004, I was surprised, firstly that an indie film was receiving a sequel, then secondly that it was getting one after such a long gap. It doesn’t seem like long ago that I was sat in a cinema watching it, this is a prime example of how our perception of time speeds up as we get older. It also got me thinking about the original film and how I came to see it.Before Midnight

Back in 1995 I was a cynical film student interested in young hip directors like Quentin Tarantino and the greats I was studying: Ford, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, Welles etc. A few friends were going to Before Sunrise (1995). Was I interested in seeing what was billed as a romantic drama? In a word NO! But, I had seen Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (1993), liked the former, loved the latter. Although not one of my favourite directors the way he is now, Richard Linklater was certainly on my radar. I also to be honest had a bit of a thing for Julie Delpy after seeing Killing Zoe (1993) and Three Colours: White (1994). So I went along not expecting anything, what happened, I loved it. In a year that included Heat, The Usual Suspects, Se7en and Casino it is easily in my top three on the year. More importantly than that, it taught me a lesson about being judgmental of movies and of perceived genres. I own both movies on DVD and have watched them back to back many times including just a few weeks ago and am never disappointed.Before Sunset

Part of the appeal of the movie is the natural realism and the familiarity of the situation. We have all met someone in passing on the street, on public transport in a shop and strike up a conversation. Some of those lead to lasting relationships, but most are passing conversations that don’t go anywhere. We get of at our stop, or get served in the shop and we never see the person again. The movie gives us the what if of life. Bet then we get to the end of Before Sunrise, an ending that cuts deep down into the viewers personality and tells us about our outlook in life. – WARNING SPOILER ALERT – Jesse & Celine (Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy) spend an afternoon and a night getting to know each other before having to go their separate ways. Without exchanging contact details they agree to meet up six months later. Did they meet up or did one or even both of them not make it? Until Before Sunset we could only speculate and what you think happens says a lot about you as a viewer and as a person. It also leaves a problem when writing a sequel that was again perfectly resolved.Before Sunrise

Given the way Before Sunset ended it is easy to speculate where the characters will be in Before Midnight, but I hope Richard Linklater has some surprises for us. With a script by Linklater and the stars Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke who appear so perfectly in tune with the characters we can be confident that whatever happens we will not be disappointed with the direction they take.

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I’m not sure the 90’s is the best decade for movies but it is certainly consistent! Without any padding to make up the numbers every year of the decade has at least five great films to be in contention.

1990: Nikita, Wild at Heart, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Miller’s Crossing, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

1991: Point Break, The Silence of the Lambs, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cape Fear, Delicatessen

1992: Reservoir Dogs, Unforgiven, Batman Returns, Army of Darkness, Hard Boiled 

1993: Army of Darkness, Three Colours: Blue, Schindler’s List, Dazed and Confused, True Romance

1994: Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Leon, Three Colours: Red, Ed Wood

1995: Heat, Se7en, Twelve Monkeys, Before Sunrise, The City of Lost Children

1996: Bound, Crash, The English Patient, Pusher, Romeo + Juliet

1997: L.A. Confidential, Jackie Brown, The Ice Storm (forget Wushu and gay cowboys, this is Ang Lee‘s best film), Cube, The Fifth Element

1998: Saving Private Ryan, Run Lola Run, Blade, The Big Lebowski, American History X

1999: Fight Club, The Matrix, Go, Eyes Wide Shut, The Straight Story

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As I sat watching Silver Streak on TV, a movie I haven’t seen for about twenty years, I suddenly realised something I have always know in the back of my mind; there is something magical about movies set on trains. Air travel and the jet set should be more sexy, it probably is, but its far less cinematic, Planes are little more than a mode of transport, they are the way James Bond gets from one exotic local to another, but trains are the locations in themselves. True, plains have been the setting for movies live Air Force One, Flight Plan or Red Eye, but none of these movies offer anything new that we haven’t seen before in movies like The Narrow Margin (the 1952 original, although the Gene Hackman, Anne Archer remake isn’t bad either). The size of a train is what makes it so suitable for a film, particularly a thriller or murder mystery, they are big enough to provide the space need for the action to play out but small enough to create just enough claustrophobia and intimacy.

A common theme of train set movies if people finding love, romance or just sex on a journey. North by Northwest features one of the best seduction scenes ever as Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint flirt and seduce each other over dinner. The movie then ends with the most audacious ending as the train itself becomes a phallic symbol in the most overt of innuendos that only Hitchcock could get away with. In a lot of ways Silver Streak condenses all the ideas of North By Northwest down to a train based part of the movie with just enough action, comedy and absurdity to keep it the right side of parody.

Although only a small section of Some Like it Hot is set on a train, it is a fantastic part, not least as its where we are introduced to ‘Sugar’ Kane (Marilyn Monroe). James Bond has spent his fair share of time on train, most notably in From Russia with Love (1963). Encapsulating the romance and the danger as Bond (Sean Connery) woos Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi) and fights ‘Red’ Grant (Robert Shaw). Bringing things more up to date Harry Potter first meets Hermione on the Hogwarts Express, it is also the place he first encounters the dementors.

As the world shrinks under the weight of ever the increasing progress of technology the magic of trains in movies evaporates, but filmmakers will always find ways to bring it back. This can involve setting movies in more exotic places like The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and Transsiberian (2008) or in the past: Water for Elephants (2011). In this age of laptop computers and MP3 players I wonder how often people actually strike up a conversation with a stranger on a train anymore? That could be a good or a bad thing depending on who you talk to: Guy Haines (Farley Granger) encounters psychotic Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker), who has a plan to help him get away with murder in Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) (adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name with a screenplay by Raymond Chandler). On the other hand in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, American student Jesse (Ethan Hawke) has a very different experience when he meets Céline (Julie Delpy), a young French woman on her way home to Paris.

Next time you are watching a movie set on a train (and there a lot, I have only mentioned a few) have a think about the setting and if it would work anywhere else.

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