Before Midnight (2013)

Before Midnight
Directed by Richard Linklater
According to imdb the characters are by Richard Linklater and Kim Krazan and the screenplay is by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
(number 483)

This is the only one in the trilogy which I had never seen before (9 years on from the last one). It opens with Ethan Hawke saying goodbye to the boy he said he had in the last movie, and I couldn’t help but try and make him the kid from Boyhood… it wasn’t, but I wanted it to be.

Celine, we learn straight off, (when we’re in the car with Jesse, Celine and their two beautiful blonde girls in the back,) is a lot more cynical than she used to be. Jesse is tired out, a family man who craves more of a connection to his son who lives in another country. Jesse has published two more books and that they are successful. Celine has become more politically active, and early on there’s a hard conversation where she insists this is the start of their relationship breaking up. I immediately had a NOOOOOOOOO reaction because I am so invested in the characters and I want them to be together.

The picturesque location of this movie is Greece, and it’s a beautiful, sun soaked landscape which Jesse has been invited to based on his writerly success. There’s a very upsetting sequence over dinner where Celine points out that what Jesse really wants is a bimbo, and she does an impression of a very Marilyn style girl – a vapid blonde who doesn’t know that Romeo and Juliet is a play. She is doing it to send him up, but the bad thing is that he immediately says “why am I finding myself to attracted to this woman?” and confirms her point.

It flows on to a story from two of the other couples, the difference between masculine and feminine – every woman coming out of a coma would ask about the other people; was anyone else hurt? etc. The men without exception would look down to check their cock was still there. It’s told as a humourous anecdote and the conversation about masculine and feminine are compared and contrasted. It’s a very binary conversation, and it’s a very heteronormative one. I find it uncomfortable to watch conversations about breaking up or how people are too different to stay together. Although there is a lovely line at the end of there “It’s not the love of one other person that matters, it’s the love of life.”

This is all important backdrop and set up for the second part of the movie where Celine and Jesse go off alone together, wander through some beautiful landscape and talk and talk. But this is also where the movie became very uncomfortable for me. As someone who has been through the breakup of a long term, committed relationship a lot of the conversation was horrifyingly familiar. Maybe not the exact content, but the atmosphere of it, the arguments, the people sticking to one point of view and trying so hard to get the other person to see what they mean. Making jokes at inappropriate times. The shit storm of recriminations and bringing up of old hurts and sudden revelations.

It was painful, and that shows how cleverly crafted the script, the characters and the acting all is, because it was tapping into something deeply real. My heart hurt for Celine and Jesse and the investment I feel for them made me want to stop the film so I could write the ending in a happy way inside my head.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yes. Always. Linklater really gets my need to have movies that make me love humans. And of course, that love is what makes this movie so incredibly hard to watch.

I found the ending problematic mostly because I felt like there was an explicit element of Celine ‘giving in’. The points she had been making were valid – it’s not fair for Jesse to suddenly uproot all of their lives for a shitty situation in Chicago, and his continual assertions that she was crazy, emotional and irrational dismissed her points and made them irrelevant. It’s something that is even addressed in the dialogue, however he never backs down from his assertion of her craziness – he even states it as a thing he adores about her right at the end, winning her back, and she accepts this. At the very end she goes back into the ‘bimbo’ character, so show that she’s coming around to him again, that maybe things will be fine, and that’s very upsetting to me because it’s taking away her personality and allowing it to be subsumed into what he wants. She’s reverting to a character she made to send him up, not to connect to him.

More than anything it felt like the movie’s narrative was agreeing with the assertions at the start of the film about the difference between masculine and feminine, that there’s no point trying to change who men are, and what that means (penis first, the world second). It also surrenders Celine’s arguments as just a function of her crazy French girl-ness, which is a problem for me who has always seen her as a complete character, a human being.

Bechdel test: Yes it does! Finally we have named female characters who aren’t Celine! Nina and Ella, the daughters talk to her (mostly in French) about apples, the ruins they wanted to visit and what to pick up in the store. Nice and early on too. Plus they also talk in the garden as well. Bliss. Little girls speaking French is just the most beautiful thing, isn’t it?

Best line:
Natalia: Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through

Celine: I feel close to you,
Jesse: Yeh?
Celine: but sometimes, I don’t know? I feel like you are breathing helium and I am breathing oxygen

State of Mind: Ouch. It was pretty, but I don’t know if I’ll watch it again any time soon. Curious to see the next one in 8 years and see what actually happened after that night because despite everything, it is ambiguous to me.

Watched movie count

Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunset
Directed by Richard Linklater
Story by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan, screenplay by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
(number 116)

The start of this movie states that how you interpret the end of the first one shows whether you’re a cynic or a romantic. The first scene is actually incredibly meta and self referential, especially since Jesse’s book is written about the night he spent with Celine.

They also set to rest very fast the actual ending – just at first they both claim to have not been there. Celine wanted to but her beloved grandmother died and was buried on that very day and Jesse although he had been there doesn’t want to admit it. Of course, Celine sees straight through him and is at first embarrassed and sorry, laughing at him in a very real reaction.

The differences from the first movie are first that it’s in Paris, second that it’s nine years later and third that it’s set during the day time and not over night. It allows for the beauty of Paris to shine through, the beautiful sunny day lighting up the characters, the buildings and the river.

The first movie had a time deadline as well, Jesse getting a flight, but this movie’s time deadline is a lot closer, it’s only a couple of hours they have and she’s forever suggesting he get going and he’s forever suggesting that one more thing they could do together until he’s walking up the steps to her apartment and holding Che the cat. Because of the first movie and because of how much crap these two vent at each other, you really want them to be together. You want the ending to be about the two of them finally making a life together. Although the ending is a bit ambiguous as to what will happen from there but they are together and they are smiling, so… it’s a lot happier.

Does it make me love the people? The same as with the first one, the two leads are charming and interesting. The beautiful thing is that since they are 10 years older the naivete of the characters in the first movie is gone, they’re more worldly and more educated and that’s really nice to recognise when you watch them back to back.

Bechdel test: Again with the no, it’s mostly just Jesse and Celine talking at the other people are mostly not named. Celine talks to her female neighbour but I’m pretty sure it was about Jesse, and of course, the neighbour isn’t named.

Best line:
Celine: No, it’s not even that. I was fine until I read your fucking book, it stirred shit up. It reminded me how romantic I WAS, how I had so much hope in things and now I don’t believe in anything that relates to love. I don’t feel things for people any more.

State of Mind: Love! And sunshine and songs! I want to go to Paris! And write! And also sleep because I watched this film back to back after two others and I am movied out.

Watched movie count

Before Sunrise (1995)

Before Sunrise
Directed by Richard Linklater
Written by Linklater and Kim Krizan
(number 208)

Life from a train and the way it makes you think of new ideas. Linklater is brilliant for human conversation and I think this is one of his first ventures into a film which is just about people shooting the shit. I first saw this movie on video just a couple of years after it came out when I was 17 or 18 and had some girls over for a sleepover. I remember kind of hating it, because I couldn’t understand why anyone would care about two people talking.

I think as I got older I started to enjoy it more because I saw the charm of the connection Jesse and Seline have. Also because it’s sort of a time capsule, and also also because I’ve seen so many slow art house movies that I have a lot of patience for the pace of the film. I’ve learned a lot more about how to read into movies and see what the film maker is trying to show us – in this case – it’s pure love of humanity and connections that humans make to each other.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are wonderful in this, they totally carry this film and it feels effortless. They’re both charming and interesting.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yeah. This movie is like, first love bottled. It’s pure 90s from hr long floral dress over a t shirt to making me remember being a teenager in the 90s and having long talks with people over night. The simple connection you can have to someone just by listening to a song together but missed with this fantasy of exploring a strange foreign city with a beautiful stranger.

Jesse is essence of American – being named after a cowboy (as Seline points out), wearing leather and explaining about how he can’t speak another language and her being gorgeous, ethereal French and so very deep. I love the contrast of how they view their own lives – discussed in the quiet of a church. Seline feels she is an old woman, looking back on her life and Jesse feels he s a 13 year old boy who has no idea what he’s doing, like he’s pretending to be an adult.

I also love that they talk explicitly about sex and whether they should have it or not. It’s nice to have them being explicit and open about sex.

Bechdel test: No, although Seline talks quite extensively to the palm reader, no one in this play is named but for Jesse and Seline.

Best line:
Celine: I hate when a stranger on the street, like a strange man, will tell me to smile. Like to feel better about their boring lives…Each time I wear black, or like, lose my temper, or say anything about anything, you know, they always go, “Oh it’s so French. It’s so cute.” Ugh! I hate that!

Jesse: This friend of mine had a kid, and it was a home birth, so he was there helping out and everything. And he said at that profound moment of birth, he was watching this child, experiencing life for the first time, I mean, trying to take its first breath… all he could think about was that he was looking at something that was gonna die someday. He just couldn’t get it out of his head. And I think that’s so true, I mean, all – everything is so finite. But don’t you think that that’s what, makes our time, at specific moments, so important?

State of Mind: Ambiguous endings done right. There’s two points open to interpretation: did Jesse and Seline sleep together and of course the more important one: did they both turn up in 6 months to meet each other again? Pessimists say no, optimists/romantics say yes. Of course this question was answered in the next film, but more on that later. I like this kind of ambiguous ending because it doesn’t make you question if what you saw was real or not but instead, what you think will happen next. I like this movie a lot, it’s sweet and lovely and it definitely makes me love humanity.

Plus Ethan and Julie’s little smiles as they think about what just happened, separated on different trains are incredibly charming.

Watched movie count

Film Festival first weekend

Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s newest film was filmed over 12 years, tracking mostly the boy from the title but also his older sister, mother and absentee father. It’s a movie about growing, about parents, about life in all it’s dreary normality. And it is so stunning. I don’t like raving about movies because I hate when people build films up for me and I’m disappointed, but I have to emphasise that if anything about the premise or the trailer intrigues you then you should go and see it.

Glenn and I went after a very satisfying dinner at Uncle Mikes. It was a long movie, but it didn’t once feel it. It was lovely and beautiful and it made me love humans so much.

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

This documentary is part character examination of Hayao Miyazaki, part diary of his last film The Wind Rises being produced and part immersion into the world of the offices of Studio Ghibli. The pace of the movie was a bit on the slow side, lots of shots of the pretty scenery and loving sequences of the studio’s cat, but getting to see Hayao so up close and personal was a total joy. He’s a hilarious guy, and he was very open with his stories to the camera. I really enjoyed it.

I especially loved the bit where the radio calisthenics played over the office and Hayao got up to do them and then complained that it was version 2, which he doesn’t know so well. Trying to work out if I can get this happening in my office…

20,000 days on earth

I’ve heard that this movie doesn’t play well if you’re not a Nick Cave fan, and I’d believe that. You sort of have to be invested and thinking he’s cool to start with or he might come off as a self centered tool, but then… most rock stars would. I read somewhere that this was meant to be a doco but Nick Cave ended up helping write a script to show his typical day, the 20,000th day of his life.

I loved this film. It was beautifully shot, just stunning on the big Embassy screen and the conversations Nick had – with his Freudian psychologist, with archivists collecting up bits of Nick Cave memorabilia, with his band mates and with himself in voice over were all interesting to me.

My most treasured bits of the movie where when he spoke about his creative process. He talked about his song writing as being all stories which take place in another world, a dark violent and strange world where there’s a god like figure taking score of what people do, but he doesn’t actually believe in god in the real world. Those ideas are fascinating to me.

The movie also made me fall in love with his latest album Push the Sky Away, which I have since bought, so… there’s that. I’d definitely watch this again, in my head it files in very nicely with the Leonard Cohen doco ‘I’m your man’.