Challenge Week 19: Before Midnight

In a way, this is kind of a gimme recommendation – Before Sunrise, the first movie in this trilogy, is my #156 and in the 96th percentile of my Flickchart, and while I don’t like Before Sunset as much as many people, it’s still solidly in my Top 1000 at 80%. It’s probably a given that I would like Before Midnight, and really, I’m surprised I hadn’t gotten around to it already. Good news for Ryan, though, as he gets to rack up a definite win with me.

The third part of the Richard Linklater-Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy Before trilogy resolves the ambiguity of the end of Before Sunset – Jesse and Celine DO get back together after nine years of being apart, and now they’ve been together for nine years, have twin daughters, and are living in Paris but currently finishing up a summer in Greece. That helpfully gives the movie a beautiful location to add to the Paris of the Part 2 and Vienna of Part 1. But like the others, Before Midnight is really a series of extended conversations between Jesse and Celine, and sometimes a few other people.

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I tell you, it doesn’t sound interesting to hear a couple of people talk for two hours, and not even everything they talk about is deep or profound or meaningful in any way, but it is MARVELOUS. I fell right back into the groove of living with Jesse and Celine, enjoying their back and forth patter. And while in the first film their conversations were exploratory, two people just getting to know each other, and in the second they were tentative, two people who had been apart reconnecting, here they’re comfortable (at first, anyway) – the conversations of two people who know each other intimately. With a real nine years between films, it’s amazing that Hawke and Delpy can pick up like this and have the same chemistry, with the variations on relationships that these films ask of them.

The last third of the film turns into a massive fight that almost ruins them – but not the movie, surprisingly enough. The confrontational nature of Before Sunset is one reason I don’t enjoy it as much as the first film, but here, even as my heart was breaking for them and the things they were saying to each other, I still weirdly enjoyed being with them as they went through this. It’s the fight of two people are deeply joined together by love and life, but also have their own individual concerns (her job in Paris vs his son from a previous relationship in Chicago) and they’re trying to negotiate all that – which is something I’m sure any couple in a long-term relationship can related to.

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I went back and forth in my notes as to which one I thought was right and which one I thought should back down, because really, they’re both right and they’re both wrong, and I appreciated the honesty with which Linklater/Hawke/Delpy dealt with this. Relationships are messy, arguments are rarely clearcut, and while it did at times lean a bit too much toward “Jesse’s trying to be a caring guy for her and his son and Celine’s just focused on some abstract feminist ideal” at times, neither of them can be totally pinned down to that.

Even after the argument, which is admittedly at times difficult to watch, I still wanted to be with them for a lot longer than the film gave us – I could tell the moment it was about to go to credits, and I was a little sad it was already over. I could’ve watched them just hang out and talk, even fight, for another hour, I think. Especially if they were going to do it in gorgeous locations with beautiful cinematography like this, but you know, I’m flexible. I’m really glad Ryan gave me the excuse I needed to finally get around to this. Next up: Getting Jonathan to sit down for five hours to watch all three.

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Stats and stuff…

2013, USA
directed by Richard Linklater, screenplay by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
starring Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Before Midnight entered my chart:

Before Midnight > Three Times
Before Midnight > Rango
Before Midnight > Dead of Night
Before Midnight < Wings of Desire
Before Midnight > The Master
Before Midnight < The Man from Laramie
Before Midnight < For Heaven’s Sake
Before Midnight < Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Before Midnight > The Big Parade
Before Midnight < Fort Apache
Before Midnight > Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Final ranking #331 out of 3639 films on my chart (91%)

It is now my #2 Richard Linklater film, my #2 Ethan Hawke film, my #2 Julie Delpy film, my #6 Marriage Drama (only a slight misnomer), my #27 Romantic Drama, and my #2 film of 2013.

Before Midnight was recommended by Ryan Hope, a friend from the Flickcharters group on Facebook. Averaging together this #331 ranking with my #1794 ranking of his other film, Being There, gives Ryan an average ranking of 1062.

A few quotes…

[language warning]

Jesse: I don’t ogle girls. [fake accent] I make love to them with my eyes.
Celine: Ooh, I like the Spanish guy. Or is he Greek?
Jesse: [fake accent] I don’t know where I am from, but I am very hairy.

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: Yeah?
Celine: But sometimes, I don’t know? I feel like you’re breathing helium and I’m breathing oxygen.
Jesse: [high pitched voice] What makes you say that?

Celine: …we don’t have to spend our lives comparing ourselves to Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Tolstoy…
Jesse: What about Joan of Arc, right, she was a teenager and she saved France, so…
Celine: Who wants to be Joan of Arc? Forget France, she was burnt at the stake and a virgin, okay. Nothing I aspired to. What a great achievement.

Celine: Women explore for eternity in the garden of sacrifice.

Jesse: I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing.

Celine: If we didn’t have the girls, or all our stuff, would we still be together?

Jesse: I am giving you my whole life ok? I got nothing larger to give, I’m not giving it to anybody else. If you’re looking for permission to disqualify me, I’m not gonna give it to you. Ok? I love you. And I’m not in conflict about it. Okay? But if what you want is like a laundry list of all the things that piss me off, I can give it to you.
Celine: Yeah, I want to hear.
Jesse: Okay well, number 1, you’re fucking nuts! You are. Good luck! Find somebody else to put up with your shit for more than like 6 months okay? But I, accept the whole package, the crazy and the brilliant. I know you’re not gonna change and I don’t want you to. It’s called accepting you for being you.

Jesse: if you think I’m just some dog who’s gonna keep coming back, then you’re wrong. But if you want true love, then this is it. This is real life. It’s not perfect, but it’s real.

Celine: Well, it must have been one hell of a night we’re about to have.

A few more screenshots…

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