Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Soul

I have been waiting for the release of the "Before Sunset" DVD for a while. I had read very good reviews of "Before Sunrise" but somehow never got a chance to see it when it came out 9 years ago. For the last couple of years it was in the back of my mind to watch them together after the release of the sequel. It was worth waiting for.

I am a fan of Eric Rohmer's "talkative" films. Yes, they are uneven and often they do not quite work. But I still love his films and admire his integrity. It is very refreshing to find a contemporary American director (Richard Linklater) to be so interested in meaningful human conversation - interaction of ideas and emotions, emergence and sharing of feeling. It's not an easy subject for the film medium. It's so easy to look and sound maudlin, pretentious or just silly. Somehow he managed to accomplish what the French New Wave masters would be proud of. At times it's almost magical. There are moments in "Before Sunset" where Jesse does not feel real and Ethan Hawk, the big Hollywood star, sort of takes over. But those moments are very few and far between and he does recover quickly and nicely. Julie Delpy's performance in both the films is simply amazing. Passage of 9 years has changed her character a lot, but after watching "Before Sunset" you would not believe that she could have grown up to become a different woman.

For an almost flawless film with a beautifully ambiguous and perfect ending, Celine's story about the NYC cop who shows up late and then goes out of his way to recommend that she should buy a gun because she was not in France sounded a little bit off-key. We have to stretch our imagination a little bit to believe that a professional American cop would behave like that when he is on duty. It comes across as pandering to the political leanings of the likely target audience in European and American art theatres. Complex subjects like violence, imperialism, war, environment and religion crop up often in their conversations as they should. Almost always the script and the performances manage to make the conversations perfectly credible like conversations you could have last night with one of your friends.

I have been thinking about Jesse's observation on souls . He thinks the human population explosion contradicts the concept of indivisibility of human souls. He does not mention it in the context of any specific system of belief. But from what I understand out of my limited reading and vague memories, immutability of human souls is a basic tenet of Hinduism and is discussed in some detail in Bhagavad Gita. I wonder if they tried to account for the population explosion by discussing generation of new souls or soul-division in a process akin to cell-division or one soul inhabiting multiple bodies. A related thought. I think a belief in body-soul duality is one of the more fundamental axioms in Hinduism. I happen to think consciousness is emergent and it cannot transcend our physical body. Does that in itself disqualify me as a Hindu if for the moment I ignore the fact that I do not believe in most of the other axioms either?

Note to self: Revisit Color Trilogy. It has been a while. Just for Julie Delpy if for no other reason.

James Berardinelli on "Before Sunrise"

Jonathan Rosenbaum on "Before Sunset"

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