Before Sunset: Don't read this review!

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July 1 2004 6:33 PM

Don't Read This Review!

See Richard Linklater's Before Sunset first.

Sunrise, Sunset: It's all romantic
Sunrise, Sunset: It's all romantic

Have you ever watched something so intimate it made you squirm? I mean emotionally intimate. Embarrassingly emotionally intimate. I had that experience with Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise (1995), which I missed in theaters and caught up with on video a year later. I loved it, but only in small doses. I'd watch 10 minutes, walk around the block, watch 10 more minutes, read the newspaper, etc. The story of a young American (Ethan Hawke) and a beautiful French jeune fille (Julie Delpy) who meet on a train and slip into a deep-thought conversation with an intensely sexual subtext, it was like a non-platonic My Dinner With Andre, a romantic daydream distilled to 190 proof: One sip made you reel. And it ended tantalizingly, with the new lovers agreeing to meet in Vienna, six months later, still ignorant of each other's last names, trusting to the fates that had brought them together in the first place.

Nine years later, how does Linklater do a sequel? Anything that comes next would have to be an anticlimax because there's a different kind of suspense once they've acknowledged their magical connection—and slept together. But we want to know what happened. We need to know what happened. We don't want—any more than they do—to let the moment go.

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The bad news is that Before Sunset (Warner Independent Pictures) is not as delirious an experience as its predecessor. The good news is that it's wonderful anyway, and in ways that tell us something about our romance with Before Sunrise.

But now it's time to bid you au revoir. You shouldn't read a review, any review, before you see Before Sunset. You should enter in a state of virginal innocence, still wondering if Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) met in Vienna and what happened next. So why don't you meet me back here in a few days or weeks and compare notes?

I know, it takes courage to let a reader go in this crazy, distraction-filled world, but I have faith you'll come back. It will be our own Vienna.

David Edelstein is Slate's film critic. You can read his reviews in "Reel Time" and in "Movies." He can be contacted at slatemovies@slate.com.

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