As ÉCU’s home is the world famous City of Light we’ve always got a soft spot for classic indie films featuring our beloved Paris – such as Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset (2004). Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, the film is shot in Paris and brings its viewers on a lovely rambling tour of the city one afternoon (and actually plays out in real time). It features the story of two people who were travelling by train and met en route to Vienna nine years previously. This part of their romance takes place in the prequel entitled Before Sunrise (1995) – also directed by Linklater, and co-written with Kim Krazen. Although the films are scripted, there is evidently a lot of ad-libbing which makes the characters seem very natural.

The young American Jesse (Hawke) falls instantly under the spell of Parisian Céline (Delpy) as they skip the banal small-talk and delve straight into their views of life, love and the world as they see it. Jesse persuades Céline to spend the evening in Vienna and wait until the next day to continue her journey to Paris, and they wander around the city, philosophising and adventuring together. At the end of the film the two promise that they will meet on the same train platform in exactly six months, but won’t be in touch before then as they are cynical about love and worry they will ruin something before it begins if they attempt a long-distance relationship. Their story picks up again nine years later in Before Sunset, in Paris’s famous English-literature bookshop ‘Shakespeare and Company’, where Jesse is giving a reading from his novel – based on the night he spent with Céline and how he imagined the romance spinning out. Céline is in the bookshop as she has seen a poster for his book and the two are reunited for the afternoon. They never managed to see each other before this moment as Céline’s grandmother died right before she was meant to leave for Vienna, and Jesse resorted to the romantic notion of writing a book that she might one day read.

If you’re looking for another reason to come to Paris and attend ÉCU’s film festival at the end of March, then we suggest you take an evening to sit back with these two films. Before Sunset has no doubt already influenced many of its viewers to try their luck at love in this beautiful city! Both these independent movies are hailed as heart-warming romances and The Guardian newspaper in Britain even ranked Before Sunrise/Before Sunset third on their list of 25 best romantic films of all time in 2010. Before Sunset maintains a 95% “Fresh” rating on film review site Rotten Tomatoes.

What we’re excited about is the news that there will be a third and final film that wraps up the pair’s tale of serendipity and love, also set in Paris, called Before Midnight (which premiered at Sundance in January). This film is set another nine years later, and we see what has happened to Jesse and Céline. In Before Sunset Jesse tells Céline that he is married to an American and has a son back in the states, but admits that he is not in love, and though it is clear that he and Céline are still attracted to one another they do not get together on screen. It is yet to be announced when Before Midnight will be released, but we eagerly anticipate it and recommend you catch up with its prequels in the meantime!

Gill Gillespie

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