Un peu plus Mlle Delpy

Well since I have been slow on the blogging lately (it’s summer, okay?!), June’s female filmmaker of the month filters into July. Previously, I discussed Julie Delpy’s first “significant” film as a director (translation: the only one you can get on DVD), 2 Days in Paris. Now let’s move on to the movie that served as my first experience of the greatness of Miss Delpy, the very good Before Sunrise, along with its perfect sequel, Before Sunset.

Before Sunrise is one of those quintessential 90s movies. Pretty young people give us some clever deep talk for 90 minutes, we’re not really sure why we care about them so much, yet we do, and it’s all peppered with that go-to emotion, Generation X angst. No movie uses the formula better than this one, and it works so beautifully largely because of Julie Delpy. Ethan Hawke is perfectly fine, at his most Ethan Hawke-y, for sure, but she truly captivates. We have no trouble at all accepting right away that this mopey American could be entranced and changed by her in just a single night. Without that, the movie would not be what it is.

Observe this scene, in which Hawke’s Jesse asks Delpy’s Celine to spend a night bumming around Vienna with him:

Though the focus of the scene seems to be all that cute rambling Jesse does, what really gets me is Celine’s face. The way she smiles and giggles, and the way that she lets him go on and on when we can see from her expression that really, she has already decided that she has nothing to lose by going with him. It’s lovely.

Before Sunset is the mature, pared down, angry, wise version of Before Sunrise. It takes place 9 years later, the second time the two characters meet, and it’s just 80 minutes of real time interaction that could represent the most important 80 minutes these characters ever have. It’s one conversation that leads up to perhaps the best final lines of any film of the last five years. It’s such a perfect whole that I don’t even want to post a scene from it here, because no bit should be experienced out of sequence. In it, once again, Ethan Hawke does his job, and even better than he did before. But Delpy is the one who takes the material and builds it up to hypnotic proportions. There is something about Jesse and his thought process and reactions that is universal, but Celine is unique. Delpy took the words on the page and transformed them into a person you feel like you could meet, and you would desperately want to impress her, without really knowing why.

If you haven’t seen these films, get thee to your Netflix queue right now.

More still to come on Miss Delpy, I swear!


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Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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