Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Film Review: Richard Linklater's Before Midnight

Some might say it takes a certain amount of patience to sit through one of Richard Linklater's Before films, be it Before Sunrise or Before Sunset or the latest in the series, Before Midnight, and I suppose that is true when one is talking about the typical multiplexer who cannot keep their attention focused for more than a ten second sound bite, but for those filmgoers who love character driven films with fresh, spontaneous dialogue, combined with a swirling artistic flare with the camera - one so subtle and so smooth that you do not even consciously realize that you are indeed being swirled about artistically - and full of biting sarcasm and snarky wit, as well as old fashioned romance and classic storytelling, then Before Sunrise, Sunset, and now Midnight, are the films for you.  Incidentally, I place myself front and center in that very same category.  The first two films of Linklater's series, released in 1995 and 2004, respectively, were boons of independently-minded cinema, and the Austin auteur's latest is no less so.

Following the story of Jesse and Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, respectively, from their first meeting and night spent together in Vienna in Before Sunrise, to their re-meeting and swirling walks and talks around Paris in Before Sunset, to their now decade-long marriage, turned bitter and jaded by Celine's perfectionist attitude and Jesse's immortal immaturity, in Richard Linklater's latest, now set in the isles of Greece.  Having also been written by both Hawke and Delpy, along with Linklater (their Before Sunset screenplay was nominated for an Oscar even), the ever-evolving story of Celine and Jesse, bores more and more metaphysical fruit with each nine-years-in-the-making follow-up.  From the giddy youth of the first film, to the introspective flirtations of the second, to the descending relational spirals of this latest.  The writing, acting, and direction come together in seemingly perfect synchronicity, and manage to do so with greater depth, and greater narrative pizzazz (even when no pizzazz can be seen by those preferring Michael Bay movies to any type of arthouse fare) with each successive film.

True, these films are not for everyone (what films really are though?), and the strangely antagonistic complaints after the gleefully ambiguous ending of Sunset (an ending I recall my wife and I loving, as others grumbled as the screen faded to black and the cinema lights came up) give credence to such theories, but seriously, for the right person (myself whole-heartedly included) Before Midnight, just like its wordy. witty predecessors, is a deliciously smart and vibrant piece of filmmaking - from every damn angle.  It is sort of American indie cinema's answer to Michael Apted's brilliantly kitschy Up series from the UK.  Just what are these star-crossed lovers up to now?  A sure shot candidate for my eventual year-end top ten list (it currently sits at number two, behind only Park Chan-wook's devilishly brilliant thriller, Stoker), Before Midnight is just pure and simple storytelling brilliance, without ever being either pure or simple.  Yep, now all we need do is wait until 2022, and hope Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke have another one in them.  Of course, even if they do not, this one is a pretty damn nice way to go out.


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This is my favorite of the three films in this trilogy about a long relationship between a man and a woman. It is mostly a conversation about this longstanding bond, and some of the prose is amazing. The settings are beautiful.

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This is the first of the "Before" trilogy. You will want to see them all. The first is set in Paris, the second is in Vienna, and the last is shot in Greece. It's a very personal story about life and love.

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I love this trilogy. The dialog and camera work along with the ongoing story are captivating, I enjoy slice-of-life fiction when I am reading and this just that put on the screen. These characters are people you would love to have at your dinner table.