Before Sunset: not my cup of espresso

Before Sunset: not my cup of espresso
Ageing gives one a different perspective of life. It comes over you slowly but it’s something you can’t deny.I’m a true film buff and if the film is either set in Paris or deals with Paris, I’m hooked. That’s not to say every Paris based film is great but I get a thrill out of seeing the magical sites on a big screen.The reviews for the current “What if?” movie, Before Sunset, promised me sensitivity, beguiling, charming, well thought-out entertainment. With the combined writing and shooting talents of such ‘videttes’ as teen idol Ethan Hawke, pert and pretty rising star Julie Delpy and filmmaker Richard Linkletter, rated as 41/2 (four and a half stars) by my local reviewer, I hastened to the theatre.My reaction was only passingly positive. There were some cute lines, cute moments, cute people and cute ideas, but I didn’t go to see cute. I went to see a moving motion picture and I went to see Paris. How, I asked myself, could a modern day film shot in my favorite city be anything but wonderful? Maybe I’d see the places that in my youth were romantic for me.In the opening scene I was thrilled. There I was in George Whitman’s wonderfully nostalgic Shakespeare and Company, with all the books and the feeling of a room ever filled with the great names of literature. I had been in that store many times. I met George and was even offered a room upstairs, a room that Hawke’s character Jesse refers to as where he had just spent the night. How can I explain the feeling when Jesse and Celina decide to walk out on charming rue de La Bucherie where my wife and I once rented an apartment? Would they walk slowly through the 5th arrondissement as they started to do, past St Julien Le Pauve or along rue De La Huchette, out onto the Boulevard St Germain or rue St Jacques? Would they wander into Musée de Cluny and admire one of the finest collections of medieval art in the world? Would that café Celine was taking him to be on the Boul Mich, perhaps a Zinc Bar once frequented by Hemingway? Would they sit in the park next to Shakespeare and chat in the shadow of Notre Dame as the boats glided by near kilometer zero?No. That is not what was important to Linkletter, Hawke or Delpy, who, as a native Parisienne, should have known better. Instead they head for the Promenade Plante, near the Gare de Lyons, a residential area that draws few except train travelers. True, the Promenade is unique and normally beautiful as the flowers and shrubs bloom on this abandoned railway track above the streets. But they chose to be there when very few flowers were in bloom. They used tight close-ups of Celine, talking too quickly or about their one-night-stand that I found ‘pedestrian’.The film lost a chance to romance the viewer with the great sites of Paris and chose instead to do an 80-minute talk piece about lost love, fumbled chances and ‘what if’. Who cares? I certainly didn’t want to know that Celine never kept her rendezvous with Jesse because her grandmother died. It’s a lame excuse, used by my student sometimes more than twice a year. The characters were no more unique than any other people who ‘might have” had something but never will.Where was the scene at the tip of Square Du Vert Galant, where lovers watch the setting sun? Where were the Luxembourg Gardens, Les Invalides, Buttes-Chamont, rue Mouffetard or the tiny section of rue de la Bucherie, where the street turns towards the Seine and lovers always gather. Where was Paris? Where was the sophisticated and visual film I wanted to see? After all, they had a car and driver at their disposal. They could have stayed together for a few moments longer and marveled at the golden Joan of Arc, shining on rue Rivoli or the Eiffel Tower lit up like lace against a Paris sky. Why set a movie in Paris if you are not going to show off Paris?Had the conversation been important or engaging, like in My Dinner With Andre, it could have worked. All I got was a facile, trite, even juvenile conversation, and too many close-ups of a sometimes scruffy looking Hawke and a nervous and quirky Delpy. It took a lot less than 80 minutes for them to burst my ‘red balloon’.It was fair at best and should be awarded one star for effort. Even with my senior citizen discount, I expect more.Bring back the fabulous destiny of Amelie.  That was charm!
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