Before Sunset

This 2004 follow-up to Richard Linlater’s 1995 Before Sunrise is a first-date movie for people who fancy themselves as having more going on upstairs. But grey matter to one side, do you need to have seen the first film to enjoy the second? Probably not, though it helps to know that in Before Sunrise Ethan Hawke had fulfilled every heterosexual male InterRailer’s wildest fantasy – by meeting the stomach-churningly beautiful, witty and, very important, French Julie Delpy on a train and having a night of flirtatious intellectual chat and wild adventure with her.

By the end of Before Sunrise both parties are agreed – it’s love and they are absolutely definitely going to meet again, time and place all locked down. That meeting never happens. Now, nine years on, they bump into each other in Paris quite by accident. Each is now in a relationship. Each is older and reasonably successful. So? Do they? Well, the joy of this sequel is that director Richard Linklater and the two stars – both of whom are more or less improvising all the way – tantalisingly hold off the outcome, leaving Hawke and Delpy to indulge in cerebral foreplay, discussing how the intervening nine years have treated both themselves and the world. As they flirt with each other, the film flirts with us.

It’s talky, it’s slightly self-satisfied but it’s undeniably romantic too.

© Steve Morrissey 2006

Before Sunset – at Amazon

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Norman McLaren: The Art of Motion

 

Who? Those who have no idea who Norman McLaren is won’t be so nonplussed after the briefest glimpse of his work.

Frequently working by drawing directly onto the film stock itself (as in Boogie Doodle), this Scottish-born wizard experimenter is the creator of an instantly recognisable style of animation, frequently set to jazz or electronic music, which now seems to define the meeting point between high and popular arts in the 1940s and 50s. Blobs splash and explode, red against pulsating yellow. Lines oscillate, coalesce, fly apart. An orange hen rotates as it vibrates against a green background, a fluid expression both of chicken-ness and of the possibilities of the line itself – “At last” as Picasso said “something new in the art of drawing”. And McLaren’s fluid style is reminiscent of Picasso, so maybe the old goat’s praise was slightly more self-serving than it at first appears.

But there’s no denying McLaren’s talent, his dedication to technique always in the service of his art. And not just drawn animation either. His stop-motion works – like 1952’s Oscar-winning short Neighbours – are virtuoso technical and artistic triumphs too. How strange that their influence in the UK for a long while has been most evident in children’s TV – from Vision On to the Chuckle Brothers. Lucky children.

© Steve Morrissey 2007

A seven-disc DVD box set – Norman McLaren: The Masters Collection – is available from Amazon

 

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