Aug 26, 2016

Alternative to What: "Before Sunrise" (1995)

Scene from Before Sunrise
Welcome to Alternative to What: a weekly column that tries to find a great alternative to driving to the multiplexes. Based on releases of that week, the selections will either be thematically related or feature recurring cast and crew. The goal is to help you better understand the diversity of cinema and hopefully find you some favorites while saving a few bucks. At worse, this column will save you money. Expect each installment to come out on Fridays, unless specified. 

Before Sunrise (1995)
- Alternative To -
Southside With You (2016)

There is something simple and pure about the love story. When two people meet, there is so little that they know about each other that it's a mix of mystery and worry. Will this person be someone who makes a difference in your life? Will this just be a waste of time? One could ask a whole barrage of questions as to how the coupling process initially goes. However, there's likely to be as few romantic dramas as intriguing as Southside With You: a film that chronicles President Barrack Obama and his future wife Michelle's first date, which among other things famously included a screening of Do the Right Thing. While there have been many romantic political couples of note, there seems to be something to those currently still in office. Much like how Young Mr. Lincoln showed Abraham Lincoln's rise in interest regarding politics, who knows what following the Obamas first date will produce.
There are a lot of potential choices one could choose to paint the cinematic first date. There are those awkward ones for sure. There are those that have become iconic to pop culture. However, I think that there's some value in exploring the one that has been getting the most comparisons: Before Sunrise. While many consider its later sequels Before Sunset and Before Midnight to be better, there is something exciting about coming to Richard Linklater's original film in 1995, unaware that we were going to spend the next few decades watching this couple mature and find a deeper and more loving solace. While there's argument for which did it best, there's still some magic to the first meeting that is definitely worth exploring.
Speaking as Linklater wrote the first script,the film's couple of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy would write the next entries and you get the growing sense of connectivity. It manages to build in ways that feel organic and natural. But in the original, there is that sense of disconnect that is slowly being interwoven into a wonder odd couple as they wander the streets and try to make sense of the world. There's the sweet innocence and the playful need to do anything to stay entertained. Most of all, it's one of the first films that Linklater perfected the real time feel in. While the film is objectively shorter than the story's several hours, the moments still play out for extended periods and allow for the small moments to click. 
There isn't much else to the rest of the story. It is basically Delpy and Hawke walking around and talking to each other. It is how the entire series is. However, those interested in those conversations will likely have a lot to admire about what happens. It's not just a discussion of love, but of the various interests that each character has. It isn't a smooth and compatible test. It is about finding a middle ground by which their love is allowed to grow. Since the film only lets us see one night's worth of activities, we never get to know what really happened until the sequel several years later. In a sense, it is a reflection of the writing that we're able to understand so much in so little of time. 
It doesn't seem likely that Southside With You will be like Linklater's series. We aren't probably getting a sequel that explains the tumultuous period in the Obama's relationship. However, it does seem promising that a film about such an iconic figure could be made to try and make him so accessible. Maybe the film is just a gimmick, but it is one that definitely seems intriguing in its own offbeat way. Maybe it will end up being one of the best depictions of Obama. Who knows. All that is known is that the power of talking to each other for just one night can have a lifetime of change. It's true in Before Sunrise, and as history has shown us here, it's true in Southside With You.

No comments:

Post a Comment