I recently digitized some video I shot during a 1991 trip to France. I was 21, it was my first trip overseas, and I was traveling to Paris and Poitiers to visit a young woman I fancied. Heady stuff.
The best part was dorkily shooting arrows at a Rennaisance fair held in a 700-year-old abbey.
There was a moment in either Paris or Poitiers -- during the early, happy part of my visit -- when I was sitting in a café with the girlfriend. We'd spent the day looking at cathedrals and ruins.
Apropos of nothing, we had a fake telephone conversation.
Miming a phone receiver with my hand, I "called" a friend (played by her) to talk about my girlfriend. She then "called" a friend (played by me) to talk about me. It was a goofy game that allowed us to discuss our relationship in a playful way.
She came back to the States. We broke up a year later.
Fast-forward to 1995. I'm in a theater watching Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise." It concerns two twentysomethings (Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy) having an all-night conversation in Vienna. And then good Lord this happens.
It's a coincidence, of course. The particulars of the conversations differ. Every Gen-Xer who ever bought a Eurail pass can claim a scene from "Before Sunrise" as their own. It's a huge part of the movie's appeal.
But it spooked me. My ex even looked a little like Delpy. To this day, I (jokingly) wonder if Linklater and/or cowriter Kim Krizan were sitting at the next table. I interviewed Linklater in 2006 and failed to bring it up, mostly because it would have made me sound insane.
The spell sort of broke when the sequel, "Before Sunset," came out in 2004 and didn't parallel my own life as closely as the first film.
Here's a fantastic essay on "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" by Dan Jardine.
UPDATE 11/25/2011: Thanks to my pal D.K. Holm, I finally got to read Robin Wood's terrific 1996 CineAction essay on "Before Sunrise," and it reveals the provenance of the movie's fake phone call. Wood quotes Linklater from the liner notes on the "Before Sunrise" laserdisc: “The fake phone call came from something Julie [Delpy] did with her girlfriends as a teenager.... I thought it was brilliant, so we just worked out the scene from there....”
* It was sobering to watch the video today and realize how much I was cluelessly annoying the crap out of this poor woman with my omnipresent '80s-vintage camcorder, especially toward the end. The tradeoff being that now I have this neat time capsule of adventure and failure.