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Before Sunrise teaches few things about love, sex

Before Sunrise

Directed by Richard Linklater.

Written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan.

Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

Sony Nickelodeon.

By Scott Deskin
Arts Editor

For those who like to indulge in post-adolescent romantic fantasies, Before Sunrise is an ideal film. With its dialogue dominating the wistful storyline, the film's characters are steeped in glossy-eyed infatuation as they wander the streets of Vienna during an enchanted evening. Think of it as a one-night stand Affair to Remember for twenty-somethings.

The characters are Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American, and Celine (Julie Delpy), a French student. They meet on the Eurorail, and strike up a conversation which, more or less, lasts through the rest of the movie.

Jesse, possessed with wanderlust, has traveled through Europe on an extended vacation after getting dumped by a girlfriend in Madrid. He has one night to spend in Vienna before leaving for the States, so he makes a desperate proposition to Celine - to get off the train and keep him company before he leaves. The French student is charmed by his glib, sensitive nature and obliges him.

They wander for 14 hours and visit various cafs, bistros, and clubs. They reclaim their lost youth in a cemetery Celine remembers from her childhood, at a carnival, and in an old record store.

Despite the fanciful situations and the pop-culture philosophizing, both characters are aware of the transitory nature of their relationship. Their love story is a product of fate and some dissatisfaction on both characters' parts with their own slacker-bred existences. But the idea is still novel: A man and a woman who feel an instant attraction to each another abandon uptight sensibilities and let their emotions take control.

In Before Sunrise, director Richard Linklater departs from the pattern set by his previous two feature films (Slacker and Dazed and Confused), in which a rambling narrative and a huge cast prevail in a short time frame ( la Robert Altman). His latest film pares down things considerably, forcing his two young lovers to carry the dialogue, but over the same limited period of time. The camera follows the characters in casual strolls down city streets or is forced to be a static observer. Many of the conversations take place in comparatively long five-minute takes, which become tiresome after a while.

In addition, there is no mistake in feeling what both young people want: sex. They flirt with each other and tease about it throughout the movie; and when they speak of possibly never seeing each other again, the audience is made to beg for the requisite sexual encounter. Nevertheless, both actors are attractive and engaging: Both Hawke and Delpy (most notable in Krzysztof Kieslowski's White) are young stars on the rise. And, to its credit, the film is a refreshing romance that works most of the time, as long as you're not thinking too hard.

Before Sunrise is not a deep film, nor does it have any apparent message. Is it supposed to function as sensitivity training for young adults? I don't know. Could it function as a source of cultural enlightenment? Not likely. Is it a good date movie? Probably, but only if people treat the happenings on the screen as realistic fantasy, not fantastic realism.