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Before Sunrise

The best romance of the 1990s is laid-back auteur Richard Linklater's wonderful, gentle Before Sunrise. Ethan Hawke gives his best performance so far as Jesse, a twentyish American moping across Europe to shake off the debris of a broken love affair. The day before he's set to fly home out of Vienna, he acts on an impulse and convinces pretty French stranger Celine (Julie Delpy) to hop off the train and accompany him around the Austrian capital. With this light concept, Linklater brazenly turns the movie notion of romance on its head. Jesse and Celine don't pant and tear at each other's clothes. Instead, they talk, they laugh, they argue a little; they veer helplessly from pretentious posturing to awkward vulnerability. In short, they connect, through shared thoughts and emotions, and between them Linklater builds a gradual, deeply touching affection and trust. Hawke thankfully skewers his grungy Reality Bites persona, giving a nuanced performance as an endearing dork behind a cynical intellectual shell, and Delpy is by turns sweet and engimatic, occasionally giving surface to a few dark secrets. This is an original, affecting movie (Linklater says a bit autobiographical) about the power of human interaction, not the aesthetics of lust. Its simple, realistic story of chance is unforgettable, and the mysterious, bittersweet consequences of time are both hopeful and heartbreaking. Co-written by Kim Krizan. Cinematographer Lee Daniel beautifully captures the Austrian scenery. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen or 1:33 pan-and-scan, and 2.0 Dolby Surround. Trailer, snap case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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