Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Linklater and Kim Krizan
Life from a train and the way it makes you think of new ideas. Linklater is brilliant for human conversation and I think this is one of his first ventures into a film which is just about people shooting the shit. I first saw this movie on video just a couple of years after it came out when I was 17 or 18 and had some girls over for a sleepover. I remember kind of hating it, because I couldn’t understand why anyone would care about two people talking.
I think as I got older I started to enjoy it more because I saw the charm of the connection Jesse and Seline have. Also because it’s sort of a time capsule, and also also because I’ve seen so many slow art house movies that I have a lot of patience for the pace of the film. I’ve learned a lot more about how to read into movies and see what the film maker is trying to show us – in this case – it’s pure love of humanity and connections that humans make to each other.
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are wonderful in this, they totally carry this film and it feels effortless. They’re both charming and interesting.
Does it make me love the people? Oh yeah. This movie is like, first love bottled. It’s pure 90s from hr long floral dress over a t shirt to making me remember being a teenager in the 90s and having long talks with people over night. The simple connection you can have to someone just by listening to a song together but missed with this fantasy of exploring a strange foreign city with a beautiful stranger.
Jesse is essence of American – being named after a cowboy (as Seline points out), wearing leather and explaining about how he can’t speak another language and her being gorgeous, ethereal French and so very deep. I love the contrast of how they view their own lives – discussed in the quiet of a church. Seline feels she is an old woman, looking back on her life and Jesse feels he s a 13 year old boy who has no idea what he’s doing, like he’s pretending to be an adult.
I also love that they talk explicitly about sex and whether they should have it or not. It’s nice to have them being explicit and open about sex.
Bechdel test: No, although Seline talks quite extensively to the palm reader, no one in this play is named but for Jesse and Seline.
Celine: I hate when a stranger on the street, like a strange man, will tell me to smile. Like to feel better about their boring lives…Each time I wear black, or like, lose my temper, or say anything about anything, you know, they always go, “Oh it’s so French. It’s so cute.” Ugh! I hate that!
Jesse: This friend of mine had a kid, and it was a home birth, so he was there helping out and everything. And he said at that profound moment of birth, he was watching this child, experiencing life for the first time, I mean, trying to take its first breath… all he could think about was that he was looking at something that was gonna die someday. He just couldn’t get it out of his head. And I think that’s so true, I mean, all – everything is so finite. But don’t you think that that’s what, makes our time, at specific moments, so important?
State of Mind: Ambiguous endings done right. There’s two points open to interpretation: did Jesse and Seline sleep together and of course the more important one: did they both turn up in 6 months to meet each other again? Pessimists say no, optimists/romantics say yes. Of course this question was answered in the next film, but more on that later. I like this kind of ambiguous ending because it doesn’t make you question if what you saw was real or not but instead, what you think will happen next. I like this movie a lot, it’s sweet and lovely and it definitely makes me love humanity.
Plus Ethan and Julie’s little smiles as they think about what just happened, separated on different trains are incredibly charming.