I’m thrilled to have my bookish partner-in-crime stop by today not only for Paris Month but for my birthday! 🙂 Jenn of Lost In a Great Book (as her twitter bio says: “Librarian, collections buyer, reviewer, author events planner, blogger, cat wrangler.”) has become a very dear close friend as we talk books, life and everything in between! Co-founder of Brunch Book Club with me, we’ve done BEA together years ago and next year, it’s off to London for the Harry Potter play!
Thank you to Michele for allowing me to take part in what is one of my favourite blog events: Paris Month! I’m delighted to talk about one of my favourite movies set in Paris, the 2004 two-hander “Before Sunrise“.
In 1995, Richard Linklater directed a small, dialogue-driven movie about two people (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) who meet on a train, and end up spending a night walking the streets of Vienna together. The film introduced us to American tourist Jesse and French student Celine, two individuals who developed an intimate connection in less than twenty-four hours. Their story had a time limit – Jesse has a flight to catch the next morning, and the film ends with delicious ambiguity with the pair refusing to exchange numbers, but promising to meet six months later.
Over the course of several years, the director, Linklater, and the two stars discussed making a sequel, but the bigger funding never came through. Instead, Linklater, Hawke and Delpy traded emails and met for long conversations, eventually developing the script for movie #2 (Before Sunset). Where could they set a movie that talks about love, lost and found? Paris, of course.
The second movie, released in 2014, takes place nine years later. Jesse is now a famous author, and has written a novel based on his time with Celine in Vienna. The book ends the same way as the movie – with a promise to meet six months later – and it isn’t long before we find out what happened between the two of them. Jesse is at a signing at Shakespeare and Co, the English-language bookstore in Paris, awkwardly fielding questions from the press when Celine unexpectedly shows up. Like the first movie, the two decide to spend the rest of the afternoon together, discussing their lives and where they might go from here before Jesse (you guessed it) has to catch a flight.
While the first movie is special for a number of reasons, the second movie remains my favourite. Jesse and Celine are older and wiser. They are less idealistic and their conversations are more intimate, likely because the actors themselves wrote good portions of the script. They’ve had time to think about what happened in Vienna, and have made life decisions over the past nine years that are surprising. Jesse is married with a child, while Celine is an avid lobbyist. They are eager to reconnect with each other, but their meeting is tinged with regret and a little remorse over what might have been.
This time around, the film benefits from an unexpected third star: Paris. As much as the duo’s conversation revolves around love and life decisions, the camera and cinematography is a pure love letter to the city. Celine is at home in Paris, and as the pair stroll around the city, we are treated to intimate glimpses of everyday life beyond the usual tourist destinations. Filmed entirely on location over the span of fifteen of the hottest days of the year, it opens at the bookstore located at the Left Bank. The pair walk through the Marais district and the Promenade Plantee park in the 4th and 12th arrondissements, stop for coffee in the 11th and take a bateau mouche along the Seine before heading back to Celine’s apartment.
I won’t spoil the movie by telling you what happens, except to say that the movie ends just the way I wanted it, and the characters are as engaging and interesting as they were in the first movie. Delpy contributed several songs to the soundtrack that also includes the incomparable Nina Simone, and the entire vibe of the film feels luxurious and very French. When you factor in the beautiful Paris scenery, this may be the perfect romantic movie. You don’t need to have watched the first movie to enjoy this one, but it will certainly help.