Although “Before Midnight” (2013) is the third entry in a succession of films directed by Richard Linklater, it is not necessarily the final installment of a trilogy. It would be more accurate to say “Midnight” is the current episode of an impromptu series of “Before” sequels. In other words, more like life than a movie.
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In “Before Sunrise” (1995), Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meet on a train in Europe and ride on a wave of love-at-first-sight adrenalin. In “Before Sunset” (2004), they “accidentally” reunite after nine years of wondering what-could’ve-been. When we catch up with them in “Before Midnight” nearly a decade later, they’re on the cusp of middle age and married with children.
See trailer for “Before Midnight” HERE.
“Before Midnight” captures the complexity of long-term relationships in the times we live in. As in the first two films, Celine and Jesse converse. A lot. Think “My Dinner with Andre” (1981) for the romantically entwined. They talk about sex, the kids, their conflicting careers, and more. And it’s always engaging, maybe because there’s nary a false word uttered throughout. The Greek countryside setting along the Mediterranean doesn’t hurt, either.
Linklater, Delpy and Hawke collaborated on the dialogue, which often seems improvised, but in fact was carefully crafted over weeks. The final product was distilled into four long scenes which include some excruciatingly long takes – the first segment runs 14 minutes. “People wonder how we do that kind of thing in all the movies and, sad to say, it’s just we rehearse and rehearse until blood’s coming out of our ears,” according to Hawke.
For the audience, the experience is less gruesome, but occasionally as painful, especially the last scene in a seaside hotel room. Like much of what preceded it, the exchange between Celine and Jesse feels improvised and all too real: the maddening miscommunication – simultaneously funny and sad, even potentially tragic – that all couples experience if they’re together long enough.
Celine and Jesse compared to other famous movie couples
Celine and Jesse have the most realistic conversations, ever, and are now one of the best-known and most interesting couples in cinema. How do they size up to other famous celluloid romances?
Rick (Humphry Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) might be more romantic in “Casablanca” (1942); Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy) more suave in “The Thin Man” (1934); George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) more dysfunctional in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (1966); Rhett (Clark Gable) and Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) more epic in “Gone with the Wind” (1939); Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) and Jennifer (Ali MacGraw) more maudlin in “Love Story” (1970); and John (Mickey Rourke) and Elizabeth (Kim Basinger) more sexually obsessed in “9 1/2 Weeks” (1986).
In the most tragic category, Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) in “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) compete with Romeo (Leonard Whiting) and Juliet (Olivia Hussey) in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 take on the Shakespeare classic.
While Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) frolic amidst a bottomless F/X budget in “Titanic” (1997), there are no special effects technicians on “Before Midnight,” although Doru Raceala gets stunt-driver credit for navigating the camera car in the first scene.
Apple-to-orange comparisons are excluded. That means no fantasies, so vampires are out – apologies to Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) in the “Twilight” series. Also, no animated characters, although “Chico and Rita” (2010) and the “Lady and the Tramp” (1955) are worthwhile films.
Will there be a “Before #4”?
Celine and Jesse are running out of time frames. How about drawing from Ingmar Bergman – “Before the Hour of the Wolf”?
According to scripted words based on Swedish folklore and spoken by Johan Borg (Max von Sydow), “The hour of the wolf is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is the deepest, when nightmares feel most real. And when we awake, we are afraid. It is the hour when the demons are most powerful. The hour of the wolf is also the hour when most children are born.”
Hey, I’m just pitchin’ here – please, no spoiled vegetables tossed my way.
By the way, “Before Midnight” was warmly received by an overflow, closing-night crowd at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival.
See playdates and locations for “Before Midnight” HERE.
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