Cinematic Soulmates Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy Reunite for ‘Before Sunset’ Follow-up
September 5, 2012
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in ‘Before Sunrise’/Image © Columbia Tristar Home Video
Every (not so) often, a film comes along that captures the ineffable, translating our emotional Sanskrit into a shared experience. My first brush with that kind of pop cultural kinship came courtesy of “Harold and Maude,” director Hal Ashby’s ode to non-conformity and the ecstatic illogic of first love. There was something deeply reassuring about witnessing Ruth Gordon’s exuberant octogenarian hoist Bud Cort’s depressive out of his funk, with her imperative to embrace life and death with equal gusto.
Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” duo had a similarly visceral impact. Watching these wise and wistful meditations on the transcendence of human connection felt like the cinematic equivalent of finding a soul mate on the big screen. As we grow older, it becomes increasingly rare for any creative work – film, literary or otherwise – to capture the intricate push-pull involved in any meaningful connection between two adults. Linklater and his two lead actors and co-writers, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, captivatingly pulled this off with this series that follows a pair of strangers united by each film’s chance encounter and separated by fate and/or their own restless fear of intimacy.
All this significantly ratchets up our excitement about today’s unexpected news that Hawke and Delpy have just wrapped up the Greece-based shoot of the third installment– which has been evocatively titled, “Before Midnight.” After the last film, Linklater and his two collaborators vowed to continue the series ad infinitum, revisiting the characters periodically as they age and evolve (or don’t), borrowing the structure of Michael Apted’s masterful “Up” films.
But even the series’ most diehard admirers didn’t suspect the “Before” band would get back together so soon, particularly given the way Hawke and Delpy have been dodging, denying, and dissembling in the face of recent questions about the status of the third film. Delpy originally told Indiewire that the project wouldn’t be ready to shoot for another year. Then just last week, Hawke supposedly set the record straight late last week in an interview with MTV, insisting that he and Linklater had traveled to Greece to research and write the next chapter in the series but that filming still was a long way off.
Today the trio came clean with the following brief statement: “It’s great to be back together again, this time in beautiful Greece to revisit the lives of Celine and Jesse nine years after Jesse was about to miss his flight.” Though they confirmed the project’s reported title, no word yet on its rumored plot device involving marathon long-distance Skype conversations.
These films definitely aren’t for everyone. Ethan Hawke has been a polarizing screen presence ever since he brought the navel-gazing embodiment of Generation X pretension to life in “Reality Bites.” And critics and audiences have been similarly divided over high-voltage neurosis coursing through Delpy’s recent forays into directing with “Two days in Paris” and “Three Days in New York.” But love them or hate them, the “Before” films offer a refreshingly low-fi glimpse at two recognizable people struggling to make sense of their lives in the company of a relative stranger, who may or may not represent the missing piece in their romantic puzzle.
Where do you fall in the “Before” debate: Are they works of Whitman-like free-verse cinema that made your soul sing? Or are they pretentions acts of solipsistic tedium? If you’re among the latter, what are some of the movies that rearranged your emotional DNA?
Tags: Ethan Hawke, Harold and Maude, Julie Delpy, Relationships, Richard Linklater