A Fine Romance

Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is an american headed to Vienna, and Celine (Julie Delpy) is a French student bound for Paris. Don't hate them because they're beautiful. In Richard Linklater's luminous little romance, Before Sunrise, the pair bond in the lounge car on a train from Budapest. Then, in a come-on of surpassing sweetness, Jesse begs Celine to come check out Vienna, where he has a night to kill before flying home. ("If I turn out to be some kind of psycho, you can get on the next train.") So Jesse and Celine stroll around Vienna, playing pinball, kissing on that Ferris wheel from "The Third Man" and exchanging deep and semideep thoughts about sex, death and cable-access TV. You'd think this wouldn't add up to much. But Hawke, who does a sunny variation on the armchair philosopher he played in "Reality Bites," has a great unwashed charm, and Delpy is just magnificent: she's gorgeous, she's moody and she swears in two languages. Late at night, Jesse and Celine lie in the grass and wonder if they'll ever meet again. It's a nice scene -- unapologetically tender and not encased in all that god-awful Gen-X irony.

Linklater, who co-wrote "Sunrise" with Kim Krizan, debuted with the independent movie "Slacker." Since then, he's made deals with big studios, but he remains a conscientious objector, refusing to kowtow to Hollywood's idea of dramatic tension. "Sunrise" is an audaciously talky movie, and it plays out in something approximating real time. We go to the movies to escape real time, of course. But that may be this movie's true contribution: that it picks up the ordinary moment, dusts it off and hands it back to you.