Monday, May 08, 2006

Before Sunrise

1995, US/Austria/Switzerland, directed by Richard Linklater

With a set-up as simple as this - two travelers, one American (Ethan Hawke), one French (Julie Delpy) meet on a train and spend most of a day wandering Vienna - it's easy to assume that director Richard Linklater simply turned his camera on and pointed it at the actors. In fact this a very artfully constructed film, with carefully modulated highs and lows, paralleling the process by which the two leads get to know one another, alternately drawn in and pushed back with each series of personal revelations. In sensibility, the film is more French than American, in that these characters get to know one another through words rather than deeds; their attempts to impress each other verbally occasionally fall flat, but that's ultimately key to the charm of the film, which never tries to shade the characters' imperfections (both are also convincingly aware of their excusable flaws). While the core of the film is the blossoming human romance, Linklater also delivers a love letter to Vienna, seeking out some of the city's quirkier corners and inhabitants, and conveying the sense of a city with mysteries hidden around every corner. Both actors are strong; while their sprawling conversations are beautifully played, they also have fun with the silences, never more so when they share a music listening booth and aren't quite sure where to look.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States