You can’t always go back

Before Sunrise seems to be one of those films that ‘people of my generation’ (the moment you use that phrase unironically, you’re getting old, man!) tend to like. Somehow many of them seem to feel that it captures their attitude towards romance and what they wish their EuroRail adventures had been.

Some films should be seen for the first time at a certain age. If you don’t see them when you’re ten or sixteen or twenty-two, you’ve forever missed your chance, and unlike your peers you won’t be able to watch them with a healthy dollop of nostalgia that makes them bearable to begin with. The Goonies is probably one of those films, with its ’80s cod-Spielbergian cast of kids. Having seen Before Sunrise for the first time less than a week before I turn 34 makes me think that this is another one of those films.

Gosh, aren't we all, like, cute and stuff?

It’s quite obvious that the movie itself is enamoured with its leads and their conversations – because that’s all there is. My thoughts, for most of the film’s running time, were, “Yes, I remember those kind of conversations, when I was an undergrad student, at 2am after lots of red wine.” In that situation, those wannabe deep talks are enough – but now? I sat there thinking, “Oh, grow up!” and making fun of the characters’ self-infatuation. Which worked for about ten, fifteen minutes… and then it got boring.

You can capture the feel of a certain age or a certain type of situation. You can do so with lots of affection. But the moment you give up on any semblance of critical distance, you’re likely to end up with something narcissistic – something you can only love if you identify 100%. But especially Julie Delpy’s Céline is way too serious about her ramblings, giving the impression of a second-year Philosophy student (with a minor in Gender Studies) thinking that she’s discovered The Meaning of Life. Personally I found Ethan Hawke’s Jesse somewhat more bearable, because I thought that he doesn’t have this po-faced seriousness, whereas my girlfriend found him way more annoying. Read into that what thou wilt.

On a somewhat more positive note: I received Alan Moore’s new comic this week, the cumbersomely titled League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume III: Century: 1910 (if we want to be exact, we’d have to add the intriguing, Brecht-inspired subtitle, “What Keeps Mankind Alive”). It’s very clearly the first part only of a longer story (parts 2 and 3 are to follow in 2010 and 2011, alas), but differently from Moore’s Black Dossier, he’s actually telling a story in this one. And he’s up to his usual clever intertextual games, his major inspiration for this one being Berthold Brecht’s Threepenny Opera.

And yes, Moore and O’Neill still like a good bit of nudity, although there’s less of the actual sex. Regardless of whether you like that sort of thing or not, Kevin O’Neill’s compositions are gorgeous:

league-of-extraordinary-gentlemen-century-4

And to finish on a slightly less voyeuristic note – checking out the Threepenny Opera before reading Century: 1910 seems to be a requirement:

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2 thoughts on “You can’t always go back

  1. streetcore June 7, 2009 / 11:33 pm

    I bought LXG: 1910 and thought that it was bloody marvelous. And under £6? That’s value you just can’t beat. I’m a massive fan of the League (although, I must admit, I’m yet to read The Black Dossier) and Alan Moore in general. Nice reading stuff from an informed fan!

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