Notes on Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, Fredrik Bond's The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman, and others
Note: I've been fortunate to attend the Berlin Film Festival (or "Berlinale") as a guest of the Goethe Institut and the German government. The following are brief thoughts on a few of the films in exhibition. The opinions, as always, are my own. You can find the previous installment, including capsule reviews of The Grandmaster, Don Jon's Addiction, Something in the Way, and Lovelace here.
In 1995's Before Sunrise, two early-twentysomethings got off a train in Vienna and spent the night wandering the streets and falling in love. They agreed to meet again in six months. In 2004's Before Sunset, we learned that this promise was not kept, but that the two did find one another nine years later in Paris, where they discovered their feelings had persisted despite such inconveniences as his having acquired a wife and child in the interim. Now, with Before Midnight, director Richard Linklater and stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke leap forward another nine years, to a summer vacation in southern Greece. Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy) have been together all these years (he is long-since divorced), producing beautiful blonde twins of their own. I won't give any more away, except to say that the first half of Before Midnight is a delight, in considerable part because it allows other characters to intrude upon the conversational duopoly Jesse and Celine had maintained through the first two films. In the latter half of the film Jesse and Celine are alone together once again, and while the pairing, as always, offers substantial rewards, things do veer a tad in the direction of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Linklater's latest is a film well worth seeing for anyone invested in this particular cinematic relationship. It should be noted, though, that the title is a bit of a misnomer, as there is no deadline looming in this installment. Before Midnight is not merely an extension of the previous films, but in some ways their reversal: The question is no longer whether Jesse and Celine can get together in time, but rather whether they can endure one another for a lifetime.