Today's blog entry is brought to you by the number four and the words che and pussy, if you'll forgive some crudeness and poetry.
A couple not so serious things before I move on to Before Midnight. Except isn't all discussion of film serious, really? I kid (but I don't).
Plus, I just livetweeted through two other movies (Final Girl (sucked) and The Final Girls (awesome)), so I'm 1) maybe running out of words (as if that would happen) and 2) I might be prone to short bursts because, well, Twitter.
First an aside: I like Jesse's answer about the end of his book. "It's a good test, right? If you're a romantic or a cynic." There's not supposed to be an answer. At least prior to the existence of Before Sunset. The end of the movie is a note of hope at the tail end of a story that talked remarkably often about death while operating upon our notions about love and romance. But, whether we think that hope means Jesse and/or Celine will show up in Vienna that December... Makes me think of "The Lady or the Tiger" (and it's sequel, "The Discourager of Hesitancy") and how the point is not what happened but what you think happened. It makes me wonder if someone more normal than me would think that Before Sunset detracts from Before Sunrise because it answers the question that audience members were trying to answer in their heads for nine years. Did they or didn't they? Or as Robin Wood (1998) phrases the more important question, "Would it be better if they did or if they didn't?"
But, I was going to be flippant and crude.
First, che. An echo. Obviously, late in the film, Celine picks up her cat, and his name is "Che." Jesse hears that name and jokingly calls her a "Commie." She points out that in Argentina, che just means "hey." A little more than that in its regular use, but yeah, she's right. But, regarding the Ernesto Guevara link there--and why I call this an echo--at his book signing, talking about the idea he's got maybe for a second book, Jesse describes the main character, as "this guy. And, he's totally depressed. I mean, his great dream was to be a lover, an adventurer, you know, riding motorcycles through South America..." Which is like one of the romanticized images we have to Ernesto Guevara, before he was "Che." Just watch, or read, The Motorcycle Diaries--it's like the dream Jesse's describing. Yet, later, he jokes about Celine being a communist, not just the "Commie" line but also at the cafe when she talks about visiting Warsaw.
That cat, though, brings me to--and maybe this is just my internal 12-year-old being silly--a potential pun. When they are on the garden bench together, Celine asks about the specific words Jesse would want to hear during sex. She asks what he thinks of the word pussy. Later when she keeps referring to her cat as her "kitty" I'm putting those two things together. She's talking about her kitty and Jesse follows her up those stairs to her apartment and whether or not they are literally about to have sex, metaphorically, that's what's happening at the top of those stairs. He know she's staying. She knows he's staying. They look at each other as they head up those stairs like they looked at each other in that listening booth at the record store in the original--it's a point of no return. Hearing her sing is just an excuse (though she did just say she has a song about her cat (the bench scene just happened) and I'm flashing back to that girl's story at the beginning of The Squid and the Whale)--
(And, weird me, connecting everything to everything, I like that the boat Jesse and Celine ride on leaves from about the same spot where Duncan McLeod's barge always was in Highlander, an echo of immortality for me in this story that is so much more about being in the moment than being timeless... Or maybe arguing that the two are one and the same. Being in the moment is timeless.)
--and she has openly talked about them having sex--actually claiming that they didn't then admitting later that they had sex twice. And, she brings up her friend's questionnaire about sex, she asks about pussy. Like this walking and talking is just foreplay...
Which, though I'm not usually one for puns, brings me around to the number four. It's been nine years since Before Sunrise. Jesse took three to four years to write his book, which means he also waited three to four years before he started writing it; his book signing tour is new. His son Henry is four, a creation he values more than anything else that came of his marriage, the same age, effectively, as his book. Plus, coincidentally, the boat's next stop is Henri Quatre (Henry Four). Also, Celine lived in New York for four years. And she has lived in her apartment in Paris for four years as well. In numerology, four is about practicality and organization, the stuff that Jesse and Celine are moving away from here. It's not just relationships that get old after a few years but everything, every chapter in life. The seven-year-itch, maybe. Or the four-year-itch, or whatever. Celine argues that we couldn't live if we were in the "constant state of excitement" of a new relationship. But, anything new is exciting. If you don't figure out some other way to deal with it, without that initial excitement, yeah, it's going to get old. It's going to get boring.
And that's why stories end with "and they lived happily ever after." It's that bullshit piece of hope that Jesse and Celine's plan to meet in six months was at the end of Before Sunrise. Showing them end up together, like she didn't get on that train and she ran back to Jesse on that platform--that doesn't guarantee some eternal happiness for the two of them. That's no more hopeful than the promise of coming back in six months. Similarly, the ending of this film--that's not much more hopeful, either. It's more concrete, but there's still no guarantee. Right now, as I'm typing, Jesse is telling Celine about dreams--
I'm standing on a platform, and you keep going by on a train, and you go by and you go by and you go by, and I wake up with the fucking sweats...
His dream isn't about getting her. It's about her being just out of reach. But, just out of reach is also close. She's constantly passing, constantly within reach but slipping away. It's that hope at the bottom of Pandora's Box, ruining reality because of course some dream is going to be better than whatever your actual life is like. That's what dreams are supposed to be. But, you wake up, and maybe you have some passing thoughts about four and che and pussy, or you watch too many movies and go to bed late because what else are you supposed to do with your life? You make of the present what you can.
And, it occurs to me now, Celine is contradicting herself by commenting so positively about how Che looks around at the courtyard every morning like it's brand new. That's that constant state of excitement she said would give us an aneurysm. That's her dream. She says it's not possible but it is exactly what she wants.
It's what we all want.
And when we can't have it, we get depressed or we move the fuck on. Neither option is fun.