Directed by Richard Linklater
This of course should start with a tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman who died yesterday of drug overdose. A death so uncalled for you will yet again be reminded of Heath Ledger. A death so indiscriminate you won’t care whether it was cocaine or sleeping pills. A death so untimely you would think 46 was 27. Never less than great, Hoffman routinely reached the kind of awe-inspiring brilliance (The Master, Capote, Synecdoche, New York, Doubt…) that made it look like others were trying too hard. In a world deadened by daily news, this was truly shocking.
Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight. It’s a little frustrating that I haven’t really lived with these films. They haven’t sprung up at various points in my life to give an exciting angle and a different perspective. They haven’t been this little parallel universe that I grudgingly put on hold for another nine years (1995, 2004, 2013). I just watched them all over the course of one short month. Can I comment?
But I will. These films are doll-house perfect. Not in the sense that they are better than others you love or admire; in a way, there’s no competition. These three films exist in their own ideal, romantic, well-honed world. They don’t need to compete. They don’t need your Oscars or Baftas or what have you. They are self-sufficient. They are perfect. So perfect in fact that I have only seen each of them once. This probably won’t change.
The films star Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy whom we find at different points in their lives. In Before Sunrise we saw them fling. In Before Sunset we saw them flirt. And in Before Midnight we see them… well, fight basically. They are on holiday in Greece, both pushing forty, things have changed, and as ever you can’t look away. Before Midnight is minimalist, very wordy and full of long takes that seem so natural you don’t notice it is actually a movie. Perhaps the only deviation is the inclusion of a lengthy dinner scene that has several people having a rather fascinating conversation. Otherwise it’s the same old thing: Jesse and Celine talking.
The dialogues (co-written/semi-improvised by Hawke and Delpy) are magnetic, electrifying, totally engaging. They make you care. Beautifully acted and cleverly conceived, these films remain elegant little poems full of romance, understatement and real-life drama. Apparently there are people who find the whole thing tedious and annoying, but hopefully it’s not us.
I’m putting this on hold now, for Before Dusk (Dawn?) to quietly resurface in 2022 (bloody hell) and let us peek through another doll-house window. Very briefly, but that I guess is part of the attraction.