Monday, July 1, 2013

"Still here ... Still here ... Still here ... Gone"

Before Midnight is the third in director Richard Linklater's stunning series about Jesse and Celine, the pair that met in 1994's Before Sunrise, then re-met in 2004's Before Sunset. Each of these films has been individually great, but together as a trilogy (and hopefully more) they amount to a masterpiece of sustained filmmaking.

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy now get writing credits for these films (they didn't for the first one), so I'm assuming they are partly responsible for the dialogue. Both performances are perfect, and what is amazing is how much each have consistently embodied these complex, not-always-likable people through all three films. They are Celine and Jesse, and what they say and how they act is entirely born from this fiction.

But it's one thing to write and act pitch-perfect dialogue, it is another that the dialogue is so fascinating. Before Midnight is a sad film, and maybe even a breakup film (one of the delights of this series is that all the films leave the viewer in a state of suspense), but even though Jesse and Celine might be ending, they are still electric to watch.

I hope this isn't just a trilogy, and that we get to see these characters at 50 and 59 and 68 ...

Postscript: Celine, during a walk through the Greek ruins, mentions that she is reminded of a film she saw as a child about a couple that visit Pompeii. She is undoubtedly referring to Journey to Italy, the Rossellini film from 1954 that has recently been restored and re-released into theaters. I caught it at The Brattle a few weeks ago, and it was terrific, a poetic and visual look at a fraying marriage starring George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman.

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