4 July 2013

Richard Linklater’s ‘Before Midnight’

Nearly 20 years ago I was so taken with Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) that I imported a copy on a Region 1 DVD. It was the story of a youthful brief encounter in Vienna in those last few years when homo sapiens was without Google, Facebook or Twitter.  Any of these would now make the lovers’ subsequent inability to reunite almost improbable. Nearly ten years later in 2004, I didn't like Before Sunset, their eventual and not so youthful reunion in Paris, as much – though I still bought the DVD.

So, despite Before Midnight’s good reviews, it was with some trepidation that I went to find out what had happened to Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in the years since. The answer turns out to be primarily his divorce, their twins, their careers in Paris and his son now being an adolescent in Chicago. All of which, in one form or another, they take with them on holiday to Greece. For one night they find themselves alone as a couple and, after one of their talky walks, settle down to a fine old row. Delpy acts the part superbly, and delivers a hatchet-job on the male ego that I fear many women will appreciate. She gives an unsparing and self-confident performance, far better than in her own 2 Days in New York, and her self-indulgent flight of fancy at the end of Before Sunset. The earlier major set-pieces in the film, the journey back from the airport and supper with friends at the villa, do not come off so well.

I thought Before Midnight definitely worth seeing and, yes I will be buying the DVD. A few minor points which might be of interest:

  • The Before series may not end as a trilogy. There are three people in this filmic (non-) marriage: Linklater, Delpy and Hawke, who script it and more together, and a further film has not been ruled out apparently. The way things were left before midnight it may be Before Midday next, the relationship’s High Noon, or, more optimistically, an appointment at the Mairie
  • Apparently the couple appeared briefly in Linklater’s Waking Life (2001) which I've never seen. Nor have I seen Rossellini’s Viaggio in Italia (1954, aka Journey to Italy), I wonder who has. Some cinéaste reviewers seem to think it is the gold standard for a film depicting a long-term couple’s relationship and not matched by Before Midnight
  • Patrick (“Paddy”) Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) was a British soldier and travel writer whose romantic upper class life provided plenty of material for Artemis Cooper’s biography published last year. His house in the Peloponnese was used as a location for some of Before Midnight, and details of the others in this and the previous two films may be of interest to Before Sherlockians. 
  • Finally, why is Jesse so messily dressed? Unlikely for an author in his forties with an international reputation living in Paris – surely Celine would have taken him to Le Bon Marché.

No comments:

Post a Comment