A ‘Before Sunset’ tour of Paris

Paul John Caña

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A fan of the film 'Before Sunrise' traces the route Jesse and Celine took in the sequel set in Paris

SECOND CHANCE AT A ONCE IN A LIFETIME. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke play Celine and Jesse in 'Before Sunset.' Image from the 'Before Sunset' Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – It took the filmmakers behind “Before Sunrise” 9 years to create the sequel, “Before Sunset.” When the latter came out in 2004, it was more than a little surprising, not just because of the incredible length of time between movies, but also because “Before Sunrise” wasn’t even a big blockbuster hit that automatically necessitated a follow-up.

READ: A ‘Before Sunrise’ tour of Vienna

All 3 principal architects of the films — writer/director Richard Linklater, and actor/co-writers Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy — felt that there was more to the story of erstwhile lovers Jesse and Celine that needed to be told. 

Watch the trailer here:

As a fan of the original film, I was thrilled when I found out that a sequel had been made. Finally, we were going to find out if the two main characters got together again in Vienna 6 months after they said they would. Expectations for the second film were high, and the trio of Linklater-Hawke-Delpy delivered.

Not only did “Before Sunset” retain the charm and smarts of the first, but it actually surpassed the original in terms of logic, believability, even heart. It was a love story with brains that was so unlike the insipid romantic comedies endlessly churned out by major Hollywood studios. 

The setting this time around was Paris, France. Jesse is on the last leg of a tour promoting his book about that evening spent with Celine all those years ago. Similar to my jaunt around Vienna, I wanted to retrace the route Jesse and Celine took as they meandered around the French capital. (I was actually able to go to Paris first before Vienna, but decided to write this account to follow the timeline of our heroes).

One interesting thing about “Before Sunset” is that it’s one of the few Hollywood films set in Paris where we don’t get to see the Eiffel Tower. (Think about it). 

First stop: Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore

The movie begins here, the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, where Jesse is meeting reporters about his book

Shakespeare and Co. is perhaps the most famous bookstore in Paris that specializes in English-language volumes and publications. Writers such as Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs are said to have frequented this place. There is an actual apartment in the upper levels, where Jesse said he also stayed. 

Inside Shakespeare and Co.

This is a quote painted on the wall in the second floor. There are bookstores all over the world, but there is a different, almost palpable energy emanating from the interiors of Shakespeare and Co. Stocked floor-to-ceiling with everything from bestsellers to obscure volumes, it is a treasure trove for any book lover and is more than a worthy stop for anyone visiting Paris. 

Second stop: The streets of Paris

After a few awkward moments, Jesse and Celine leave the bookstore, turn the corner, and start walking to a café. On the way they talk about what they’ve been up to in the 9 years since they last saw each other.

Whether you’re visiting Paris with a thick wallet or on a tight budget, it’s not a bad idea to go on a leisurely walk on the streets to get a vibe of the city.

Stroll around the artistic community in Monmartre, the shopping district of Champs Elysees, the vibrant Latin Quarter, or along the banks of the River Seine. They don’t call Paris one of the most beautiful cities in the world for nothing. 

3rd stop: Le Pure Café

The couple makes their way to Le Pure Café, where they enjoy a cup of coffee while continuing their discussions on life and love

Few cities in the world have a more vibrant coffee culture than the French capital. Parisians have mastered the art of killing time just sitting in a café and watching the world go by.

The movie depicts Jesse and Celine walking to Le Pure Café from Shakespeare and Co. but in reality, the coffeehouse is quite far. I had to walk up and down the 11th arrondisement to find it. (The bookstore is in the 4th arrondisement.) But when I did, the sight alone of that painted red façade was worth it. 

The interior of Le Pure Café 

Nothing much has changed inside Le Pure Café since the movie was shown years ago. I ordered a café crème. It was here that I tried to put those lessons at Alliance Francais de Manille to good use.

When in France, it’s good to at least try to speak the language. Even if you’re horrible at it, I found that the locals at least appreciate the effort.  

4th stop: The banks of the Seine

After walking around a while, Jesse and Celine make their way here on the banks of the River Seine, where the American convinces the Parisian to board a tourist boat

Just like how the Thames is to London, La Seine is, undoubtedly, an important part of the Paris identity. It’s not uncommon to see tourists and vacationers picnicking along its banks, especially during the warm summer months.

La Seine

Tourist boats ply its waters, which provide a different way to see the city. 

5th stop: Notre Dame Cathedral

The author in front of the cathedral

Jesse can’t help but be impressed by the Notre Dame Cathedral when he sees it from the Seine. He repeats an anecdote he heard about how a German soldier tasked to blow up the church during World War II couldn’t do it because “it was just so beautiful.” 

Perhaps there is nothing else to say about the Notre Dame that hasn’t already been said. I have to admit I was speechless when I first laid my eyes on it. I can understand how that German soldier must have felt. 

My “Before Sunset” tour ended here. I was unable to see Celine’s apartment building, where the film ends with one of the most tantalizing cliffhangers in all of cinema history.

Still, for a fan of the movie, it was fulfilling to see the places and walk the streets as Jesse and Celine did. With the impending release of the 3rd film in the series, “Before Midnight,” a new city and country has just been added to my bucket list. I can’t wait. 

Here is the trailer of ‘Before Midnight’:


– Rappler.com

Paul John Caña is the managing editor of Lifestyle Asia magazine. He also wrote about the ‘Before Sunrise’ tour, where he traced the route Jesse and Celine took in the first movie in Vienna, Austria. 

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