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Sunday, June 16, 2013

BEFORE MIDNIGHT 6/16/13


Despite the quick-witted repartee and theatrical dialogue, I am a great fan of Richard Linklater, the director of the Before Series - spaced almost 10 years apart: Before Sunrise (1995,) Before Sunset (2004,) and the most recent Before Midnight (2013.)  I also have been smitten with the wildly extreme individualized depictions in the film Bernie (2012,) and Linklater’s “digitally animated” Waking Life (2001.) Every movie Linklater directs is beautifully written and all are a rare breed in the filmic world – idiosyncratic characterizations overlaid with visual beauty and trenchantly intelligent talkfests.

Before Midnight begins with a disheveled Ethan Hawke playing Jesse, a successful American writer living in Paris with Celine (the beautiful Julie Delpy) he met 18 years ago on a train to Vienna – and the 24 hour impetuous period they spent falling-in-love only to end when Jesse returned to his life and wife in the USA; that is the essence of the first film in this trilogy - Before Sunrise.

They meet again by accident 10 years later in Before Sunset where Jesse is on a book tour in Paris promoting the book he wrote about their brief encounter. The spark is reunited. The same actors are in all the films making Before Midnight, the most recent incarnation, even more poignant, as life’s imprints are evident in their now older faces and bodies.

In Before Midnight we meet the 41 years old Jesse, a successful writer, at an Airport in Greece awkwardly saying goodbye to his self-contained, bit of a stranger, 14 year old son who is returning to Chicago (where he lives with Jesse’s ex-wife,) after vacationing with his father and Celine in the Southern Peloponnese. The dialogue is very natural and so familiar that I felt emotionally pierced by the ramifications of divorce’s radiating consequences, not only on the father and son but affecting the whole family dynamic. Goodbyes are always complicated and this particular one hits Jesse hard – realizing that his son is growing up without him a continent away, since he is presently living with Celine and his lovely twin daughters in Paris.


The difficulties in dealing with the banality of everyday family obligations,  the changing nature of love and sexual desire, replete with the contradictions and conflicts that time and responsibilities inflict on relationships are at the heart of the movies's lengthy, sometimes juvenile, often both boring and provocative conversations. Both Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are able antagonists – with lots of biting jabs and generalizations (some annoyingly tasteless) about the differences between male/female predilections. I often tended to side with the Ethan Hawke character feeling that Julie Delpy’s arguments were fulfilling her need for reassurance over reasonableness, with disappointingly oft-used “feminist” clich├ęs thrown into the mix, but then wham! she would come through with a penetrating verbal jab which hit the mark - so the arguments ended up in the all-too-familiar male/female "deadlock/draw." 

And yet Before Midnight asks many questions about issues that many of us avoid discussing, doing so in a refreshingly comedic yet deadly serious way. Like life, we confront the unknown all the time. What the future will bring to this couple might be seen perhaps in 10 years time…or not. I am curious.

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