John Walker's Electronic House

by on Aug.05, 2004, under The Rest

This week I saw the film Before Sunrise. It’s a Richard Linklater film – the man responsible for some real favourites of mine, like the best last-day-of-school movie there is, Dazed & Confused, and the astonishing Rotoscoped documentary Waking Life. The two are so different in content (the former is about the moment of freedom that comes when the last day of school before the summer is over, the latter a proto-cartoon documentary featuring academics and actors exploring their philosophies, eventually investigating dream states and the potential of lucid dreaming) and yet contain so many similar tropes. And indeed many of the same actors.

More recently (and more widely noticed) there was the ridiculous (and really fun) School of Rock, again contrasting everything else he makes. And now a sequel to the first mentioned Before Sunrise, called Before Sunset. Chrissy had bought me Before Sunrise for Christmas, and I’d yet to watch it, waiting for her return from the States. With the sequel at the cinema this week, a few of us got together on Monday to watch the original, on Alec and Beccy’s home cinema (projector against the lounge wall).

It’s a film about what happens if you do talk to that girl on the train. So that was weird.

It’s a beautiful film, written by Linklater and the mysteriously aloof Kim Krizan, containing almost nothing else but the conversation of two strangers in a town foreign to both of them. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, an American guy and a French girl, in Vienna, neither speaking any Austrian or German. The language barriers emphasise the relationship. She speaks fluent English, probably better than him, and his French is stuck at a faded high school level. But since neither speak German, their compromised communication is within its own private bubble. And it’s a film purely about language, communication. It’s 100 minutes of conversation between two people. And despite the wobbly nature of Hawke’s career, he nails it in this. They are natural, improvising, and communicating. It’s the romance you dream of, if only you had the common sense, the guts, whatever, to talk to that girl on the train. I don’t mean “you”, do I?

And I’ve just noticed that Linklater is currently making a film of a Philip K Dick novel, A Scanner Darkly.

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