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From Under A Rock: Before Sunrise

June 24, 2017 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Before Sunrise  


It’s Aaron’s pick this week, and I’m stepping way out of my usual genre for this one. I have to give a big shout out to Jeremy Thomas, whose love for these films made me want to see them. And now I’m sharing with Michael.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Michael chose Predator. This week Aaron takes Michael out from under the proverbial rock to show him Before Sunrise.

Before Sunrise
Released: January 27th, 1995
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan
Ethan Hawke as Jesse
Julie Delpy as Céline

Aaron Hubbard: At the start of this year, I compiled a list of fifty classic films I hadn’t seen but needed to. This was one of them, and I quickly fell in love with it and its sequels (which I watched a month apart), and knew this would be a pick right away.

Michael Ornelas: I didn’t know anything about this one (not even the genre, until Aaron filled me in), but it ended up being just the right type of romance. The type that I like to watch: one that favors truth to character than “big” and overdone moments.
Doing Romance Right
Aaron: Romance is a tough genre to sell to me, as my immediate association is a type of bland formulaic love story with one dimensional and unlikable characters. But this… this is special. In essence, it’s one long conversation over the course of a night. But as Jesse and Celine get to know each other, the audience gets to know them just as intimately.

Michael: To expand upon what I just said above, there is so much truth to the moments in this movie. The Q&A on the bus was Jesse’s way of prying into this pretty girl’s life, and while he was very initially attracted to her, I don’t know how much I trusted his intentions from the start. He had little things about his character that made me feel like perhaps he was only interested in something physical and/or a rebound from his previous relationship (such as almost formulaically looking for an opportunity to brush the hair out of her face). This story dives into the psyche of attraction and pushes far past that as we see two people genuinely fall in love through the course of a night. That’s ambitious as a filmmaker as it requires an amazing script and perfect casting. This movie had that.

Aaron: Richard Linklater had gained a reputation for ambitious projects like Boyhood and for his excellent writing in films like Everybody Wants Some!!. He writes on a very human level, and I think he made a smart decision by partnering with Kim Krizan for this. Getting both characters to feel totally real and authentic would be a tough task for any single writer, but these two really delivered and Hawke and Delpy gave phenomenal performances.
I Needed More
Michael: I don’t mean that as a criticism, but as a testament to the film’s ability to engage me. I got to the end and I immediately wanted to see their planned reunion six months later. I loved these characters, and I loved the relationship that they developed right before my very eyes. I truly felt like I was a part of their union, and every little moment that made their hearts flutter for one another gave me goosebumps as well. I can’t name many other romance films that have done that to me.

Aaron: For me, it was impossible not to invest in them. Ethan perfectly captures this sense of weariness that comes to a twenty year-old as you start wondering where your life is headed, while Céline brings out Jesse’s optimism and ability to be rash and believe in crazy things. Julie Delpy does such a good job at showing her annoyance in a way that is understated and not vicious, and she has these big ideals and irrational fears, which Jesse grounds a bit. The basic dynamic informs every interaction, something that carries over to what are, in my opinion, the superior follow-ups.

Michael: Knowing that the sequel takes place ten years later actually really excites me, because not only am I guaranteed a continuation to this story and these characters, but I will get to see how both of these character grow up and mature. If there’s one thing to love about Linklater, it’s that he has no problem being patient with his stories. I don’t know what the other two films contain, but I’m champing at the bit to get to them.
“It’s Nothing But Words”
Aaron: I have seen some people claim that nothing happens in this movie, and that just makes me sad. I have as deep an appreciation for a great action movie or science fiction adventure as the next film geek, but films like this are amazing and deserve more notice. Once upon a time, a film lived or died by its script; people just talked, and the magic was what they were saying and how they said it that was the spectacle. This is a throwback in that regard. Give me a film that I could listen to and love without the images and you’ve won my heart.

Michael: It’s so hard to pull a movie like this off, but I agree. If you don’t appreciate a script for its words, you’re not listening. You often hear the critique that today’s audiences have too short of an attention span. It’s true, but it’s fixable. Focus. Listen to the words, and internalize how the characters react to them. That is really all story is: a catalyst, and the way the characters respond. Sometimes it’s an explosion, but other times it’s more subtle like admitting how recently you were broken up with, because that could change the entire context of the time you’re spending with this stranger. There’s so much in this movie that to hear “it’s just words” is upsetting.

Aaron: I always found it appropriate that a major scene in this involves a poet on the street. A poet knows the beauty of words and how they can add to our lives, but most never get the recognition or the financial success. What Linklater and company do here is pure poetry; I could listen to Céline and Jesse talk for days.

Michael: This is one of my top 3 favorite romance films of all time and probably my number 1 “pure” romance. It’s so well-acted that all I saw were characters, not actor. It’s so well-written that all I saw were conversations, not “dialogue”. It’s just a great movie, start-to-finish, and I’m probably going to buy the set on blu-ray if there is one. I assume there is, right? I mean, there has to be…


Aaron: This time around I have the benefit of having seen the sequels, which adds layers to a lot of what goes on here. Before and after though, this is a classic, the start of a great trilogy, and one of the most underrated films of the 1990s.


Michael: Didn’t expect to love this one so much. Good job, buddy!

Aaron: Happy to pick it. Movies like this are why we made this column in the first place.

What is your favorite Richard Linklater film?


Michael: So I wanted to pick one of my all-time favorites. I think this is my highest-ranked movie of all-time that Aaron has not seen yet (it’s in my top 20).
Evil Dead II
Aaron: Oh man, I’m looking forward to this. The original The Evil Dead is one of the best horror movies ever made in my opinion and I’m really looking forward to this one.

Michael: It’s basically a second chance at the first one with a higher budget and a more cemented tone.

What’s your favorite entry in the Evil Dead franchise?

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Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, Equilibrium, City of God, The Graduate, Face/Off, Snowpiercer, The Exorcist, Hellboy, Village of the Damned, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Idiocracy, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Fly (1986), Under the Skin, Die Hard, Dredd, Star Wars Holiday Special, A Christmas Story, Snakes on a Plane, The Big Lebowski, Bulworth, Raging Bull, Thank You for Smoking, John Wick, Mulholland Drive, The Karate Kid, Lucky Number Slevin, The Searchers, Black Dynamite, Labyrinth, Rick & Morty, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Abyss, Seven Samurai, Bio-Dome, Memento, L.A. Confidential, Tangled, T2: Judgment Day, Wonder Woman, The Way Way Back, Rebel Without a Cause, Predator, Before Sunrise

Aaron Has Another Column!
This week features another film that’s a showcase on the power of great dialogue, the all-time classic The Maltese Falcon. Check it out here.

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for almost 850 films. You can also see various lists like my Top 150 Films of all-time, my ongoing project to watch Disney animated classics, and a ranking of the decade’s theatrical superhero films.

The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
We both agree; Before Sunrise is one of the absolute best romantic dramas ever made. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy bring Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan's words to life. And what words; honest, engaging, funny, insightful, powerful, weary and cynical but loving and hopeful. It's a masterpiece that may only be superseded by its own sequels.