When I was young and silly, a friend asked me this question: “What sort of life would you want if you were filthy rich?” Unaware of his sarcastic tone, I bit the hook: “I want to own a private jet—is it called Gulf something?—so that I can depart in the morning for Paris to see an opera, and return to the States for a steak dinner the same day.”
My answer surprised him. He smirked and quipped “I didn’t know you are an opera-and-steak kind of guy.” I wasn’t. And after years gone by, I stay roughly the same: still silly, cool to opera, and eating steak only sparsely.
The friend didn’t know that I, too, was surprised by my spontaneous reply. Stupid or not, how on earth did I come up with such a fancy version of rich living?
Well, all it took, I confess, was a silly Hollywood movie that I had indulged myself for too many times. It’s Pretty Woman
A romance between a prostitute (Julie Roberts
) and a banker (Richard Gere
), as it turned out, was pretty good material for studying English. Vivian, a high school dropout, speaks a plain and simple English (“Gosh, I want to pee”). Edward, a rich bachelor, talks slowly to her in a polite tone (“Would you like to join me for a dinner?”).
Even better, the dialogues in several scenes were relevant to anyone who’s starting a new life in America: shopping for clothes, staying in a hotel, dinning in a restaurant, chit-chatting in a social event, and maybe once in a life, going to an opera. It's a delight two-hour English lesson, and only ended when Vivian went back to school in the end to get her a degree.
As my English proficiency advanced, I began to look for more sophisticated movies. I found a few; one of them came as a pleasant surprise. It blew my mind, Before the Sunrise.
Again a romance drama, only this time no Cinderella in any shape or form. Amazingly, there isn’t much going on in the movie at all, just a young American man and a pretty French student wonder in the streets of Vienna for the whole night, doing nothing but talking, until sunrise.
I’ve never seen a movie that’s so intense with just two people talking. The dialogues are so fluid that it's impossible to catch every word they said; making it harder, Jesse brings up many topics seemingly unrelated to one another, and Celine talks in a French accent. But hearing their conversations, in the background of various Vienna scenes, was a great joy. It's a unexpected romantic adventure. And it's a dream material for listening comprehension.
Such a joy also led me to see its sequel, Before the Sunset
, in eager. The setting has moved to Paris, Jesse and Celine are a few years older, but their dialogues remain fresh and intense.
So is the joy of seeing it.