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Clear the Queue Review: Before Sunrise (1995)


One of the most simultaneously rewarding and frustrating things about living in the golden age of easily-accessible media is the phenomenon known as "the queue." Formerly just a fancy way for Brits to say "line," the queue has taken on new resonance in the era of streaming media and the 'bottomless bowl' that is Netflix. Or Hulu. Or YouTube. Or your drug of choice. In my case, that drug is the ever-growing stack of cheap, probably deteriorating DVDs that I've collected over the years. From $5 bins at superstores, from closing Blockbuster Video stores, from Cyber Monday sales, and who even knows where else.

This new review series is an attempt to work through a list of 107 DVDs that I own but still haven't watched, ranging from the perplexing (HOW HAVE I NEVER SEEN My Fair Lady?!?!) to the even more perplexing (WHY DO I OWN A COPY OF Jonah Hex?!?!?). I'll be making my way through the queue in a relatively orderly way - alphabetically, except where it makes sense to skip around. I'm hoping that this project will both force me to watch new stuff (rather than binging Bob's Burgers...again) while encouraging readers to clear their own queues! Without further ado - let's watch some movies!

Starting at the top of the stack, my first film is the 1995 drama/romance Before Sunset, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jesse and Céline. Jesse is a cynical American man, Céline is a romantic French woman, and they spend an evening together after a chance encounter on a train in Vienna. In terms of plot, the film doesn't have much action - it is really more about interaction between Jesse and Céline as they spend a night wandering around Vienna, talking, and falling in love. At the end of their evening together, Jesse has to fly home and Céline has to head back to university; rather than exchanging contact information, they make a promise to meet again at the same place in 6 months. The film ends with the two lovers separated, but gives the audience a strong sense that their paths will cross again (and not to spoil anything, but the fact that the film is part one of a trilogy hints that Jesse and Céline's relationship doesn't end on that train platform).

Can I admit something about myself? I'm secretly a Céline who desperately wants to be a Jesse. I like the idea of maintaining a cool, cynical exterior when it comes to romance, but ultimately, I'm an empath who feels and loves and cares way more than I'd like to admit. So I'm slightly irritated that this film forced me to acknowledge my own long-buried desire for the kind of romance that Jesse and Céline experience. But it does say something that a film structured as one long conversation between strangers moved me so deeply. Hawke and Delpy are perfect together, and something about the setting, the dialogue, and the passage of time in the film is surreal and lovely and unapologetically romantic. The final scene - where Jesse and Céline finally acknowledge how deeply they feel for each other and how badly they don't want the night to end - had me ugly-crying and wanting to yell at the characters "you CAN be together - just don't go!." I think I need a week or two to recover the emotional bandwidth I'm sure I'll need to watch the sequels (aptly titled Before Sunset [2004] and Before Midnight [2013]).

Yes, absolutely. I truly loved this film and only wish I had watched it sooner. I have high hopes for Before Sunset and Before Midnight and a not-insignificant crush on Ethan Hawke that will probably never go away now.

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