Sunday, July 7, 2013

Before Midnight (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater sets out another chapter in his philosophic odyssey with "Before Midnight". This is the third outing for Linklater's questioning romantics featuring the spiky haired Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and the free loving and bright eyed French girl Celine (Julie Delpy) who resembles a honey drop.

We have grown up with the vivacious Celine who is relentlessly curious and self deprecating. Celine is so familiar in "Before Sunrise" (1995) and the second, "Before Sunset" (2004) that we instantly feel as if we know her. This is equally true of Jesse who is arty, idealist and brimming with nervousness.

In the previous outings Jesse was a kind of Kerouac Romeo with a penchant for anguish in leave-takings. Somehow these two continent-crossed characters have always managed to find each other and to be equally vexed by the other as if by magic and that is part of the appeal of these films. They meet. They are star-struck. They converse. And Europe rolls on in its buttery orbit.

In this latest episode Jesse is in a Greek airport blighted by worry and self doubt as he puts his son Henry (Seamus Davey- Fitzpatrick) on a plane back to Chicago. Jesse is consumed that Henry is growing up miles and miles away. Worse, he feels he is an inadequate father.

Gone is the reckless Jesse. There are deep creases in his face. What was once creative energy is now a tic and he is more than a little paranoid. Jesse still wants to accomplish things but there is a heaviness about him.

Jesse and Celine have two daughters together now which are a joy yet within that bliss there are wraiths of resentment, coupled with a fear of the unknown.

Celine has the opportunity for a high-profile government job in Paris, regarding wind turbines, while Jesse is self-absorbed wanting to spend his days with Henry, even if it means dealing with an ex wife who we never see. Celine is beside herself, thinking it a sign that their relationship is over. While trying to joke, she boils with an inner rage.

The pull of the film derives from the fact that Hawke and Delpy are so easy to watch. We know them so well that we feel we are eavesdropping. They tease and banter, they rib and tickle with a warm, graceful ease.

Watch for Celine's fellatio gesture inside a church. She's still a kid at heart.

Then a clap of surprise.

Jesse and Celine actually fight. All is not a bed of Vienna pastry . Yes some of the fighting is a bit vicious. Jesse says at one point that Celine "fucked up his life", but the progression is organic enough that it doesn't seem mean spirited. These are two characters who love each other, while Jesse in particular, tries to outrun Father Time.

The actors  are two mirrors of each other and their rhythmic dialogue is crisp and snapping. Although this narrative runs on a darker Mediterranean thread than the other films, the intriguing thing is that we can see the ghosts of Jesse and Celine as they were back in 1995 and track their vexing adventure. As they wind through the Grecian streets, we see a young pale leg and Jesse's mature graying beard together with his lined face. Then the camera pans down almost absentmindedly to show the battered leather sneaker of youth.

A tease of time passed.

Is it 1995, 2004 or 2013? "Before Midnight" is Linklater's Edward Albee  answer to youthful bohemia, in which the spirits of childhood are transformed into adult-shaped poltergeists. An amorous Walpurgis night becomes a wink from Jesse's brow and vice versa. The fun here is in seeing old acquaintances again. But better still, Richard Linklater dares to show his beloved characters both happy and satisfied, but also gripped by a fearful melancholy and the dread of what may come.

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