Friday, June 28, 2013

Before Midnight

The most refreshing aspect of Richard Linklater's BEFORE trilogy is the level of intimacy shared between Jesse, Celine, and the audience. In watching the first two films, it's easy to feel like Cupid or a fly on the wall that isn't buzzing around, annoying the shit out of everyone. Jesse and Celine's relationship wasn't ideal, but there's an obvious sense of romanticism involved ("TRUE LOVE, all else be damed," as John says).

This romanticism and intimacy is built up through communication. There's a hypnotic rhythm to their dialogue, usually quiet beautiful and poetic. They seem to belong together, and we want them to remain that way because of how naturally and seamlessly they connect.

So with the third film, BEFORE MIDNIGHT, it was necessary to test the limits of the relationship between Jesse, Celine, and the audience. And I know that Julie Delpy issued a warning about being able to handle a pair of boobs for this one, but I think it was the moment when Ethan Hawke started to undress her that I suddenly felt as if things we were getting too intimate, and especially after the clothes went back on and they began to fight. But maybe I was also reacting to the fact that the Art Mission Theater was packed with old couples and I didn't really want to watch a sex scene with them around me. I'm sorry, old people.

Anyway, we've watched these characters in two other films but this is the first time I felt uncomfortable watching them. So for that reason, I really have to tip my hat to Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke. Thinking back on Delpy's performance, it's really quite brilliant and is my favorite performance that I've seen from her.

The fight is brutal, though not spontaneous. There are plenty of little moments where Jesse and Celine take swipes at each other, and it seems to naturally build toward the moment in the hotel. But going back to the way they communicate with each other, I couldn't help but think that overall...this was a good fight. Well, I'm actually kinda torn on that one. But let me explain a bit. Reading Brandon's first post, I get the sense that he might agree with me here?? Couples fight; it's what they do. When you care about someone deeply and your relationship is "entangled in the lives of others" (another really nice line from John), negative emotions and feelings arise. Stress arises. When Jesse and Celine fight, it isn't much different from when they have a normal conversation. They both speak their minds freely and clearly, even though the more we say, the more likely we are to contradict ourselves. I don't me, the fight, as uncomfortable as it seemed, was healthy.

But while speaking your mind is good and all, if you can't "hear" what the other person is saying, then you're doomed as a couple. I said I was torn because I'm not exactly sure if Jesse and Celine have heard each other here. And this really is new territory for the audience. We've been left out of the last nine years of their relationship. Because they are still together, I can maybe assume that they do a decent job of listening to each other. I know John is focusing on Jesse's ex and notes that we only get a bastardized, word-of-mouth version of her, but I can't help but think the same can be said for the last nine years of this story in general.

Celine talks about what it was like raising their twin daughters by herself. Jesse seems to resent that interpretation of the story (or maybe it was about something else, I forget). Sure Jesse and Celine are in the film and can/do defend themselves, but that doesn't make any of what they say true. I understand where John's coming from, though, and it is a legitimate critique of the film. And I know you (John) understand that this has been the style of these films. We only get to see and hear Jesse and Celine in the moment.

Back to the fight being healthy...

Now I know Celine says that she doesn't think she loves Jesse anymore. It's tough to know how sincere she was. Was this something said through anger and annoyance? When people in relationships are hurt they tend to try and wound the other person in some way. We won't really know what Celine had in mind until the fourth film comes out...and I really hope there is a fourth film.

I also somewhat question Celine's decision to go into "Bimbo mode" just before the credits rolled. It was my fear that she was shutting down a bit. And probably I know that's bullshit and that I'm reading too much into it. She's too strong a person to just give up. I'm not trying to suggest that I think that Celine is now going to be more servile and docile...that she'll just say yes to Chicago and let Jesse win out. I guess I'm just saying that you can still voice your concerns and have a meaningful discussion without wanting to tear at the other person's throat. But right, after such an intense fight, it's probably best to end on a lighter note. I want Jesse and Celine to work this out and stay together, but I don't know, there's something about those final moments that make me feel a little pessimistic. I hope I'm wrong.

 Our audience seemed to chuckle and smile as Jesse's time traveler stunt seemed to work some magic. I couldn't bring myself to do the same. But I also recognize the realism of ending a fight in this way. You say hurtful things and get upset, you calm down, have some sex, go about your day and come back to the fight at a later time.

Other thoughts:

I also like Brandon's response to John's "ex-wife" criticism and felt the same way. It definitely comes across as adolescent to me. Hearing them call her "a drunk" and "abusive" didn't seem to register with me. It makes sense that they would both hate Jesse's ex, so of course they're going to revert to name calling. I understand, too, that those are some pretty serious accusations, but nonetheless, it comes off as exaggerated to me. Again, though, not everyone thinks what Brandon and I think, so you do have a point, John. But I also agree with Brandon's first paragraph in his "agreeing" post. Jesse and Celine are meant to be together, and at the very least, Jesse isn't meant to be with his ex.

I think John is right in suggesting that while it's never really called into question that they belong together, MIDNIGHT does a great job of broadening the scope of their relationship. But also, we can feel like they belong together, but that doesn't mean we'll always get what we want. In the end, Jesse and Celine have important decisions to make that we won't get to see or be a part of. Hopefully we'll get to see the aftermath of those decisions, though, nine years or so down the road.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

I Did the Quizzy

1. Name your five favorite actors and actresses of all time.

Actors: Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant; with honorable mentions to Bogart and Cagney.

Actresses: Ingrid Bergman, Claudette Colbert, Barbara Stanwyck, Grace Kelly, Rosalind Russell. As far as modern actresses are concerned, I really like Marion Cotillard, Cate Blanchett, and Jessica Chastain.

2. Can you remember the first foreign-language film you saw that made an impact on you? If so, what was it?

RUN LOLA RUN is my answer as well, though TALK TO HER is another foreign film that I vividly remember watching for the first time. RUN LOLA RUN was something inventive and cool. It sort of opened my eyes to the idea that foreign-language films were playing with a different set of rules. Hopefully that makes sense.

3. Favorite moment in a horror film? Least favorite?

Sorry gang, while this is a great question, it ain't exactly my forte. There are so many great scenes in THE SHINING, but I'll go with the reveal at the end of THE OTHERS. I think it's a cool idea and I didn't see the twist coming.

Least favorite...hmm...I'll go with the scenes of Rachel's sister from PET CEMETERY. I also recall a moment from the 2002 remake of CARRIE that didn't sit well with me; one dude Carrie kills at the prom is wearing glasses and she shatters them, stabbing out his eyes. While it isn't actually possible to shatter the glass in someone's eyeglasses, I still feel uneasy about that scene, being someone who needs to wear glasses/contacts.

4. Pick a film for each member of film club that you'd really like for her/him to see.

John - Love and Death
Brandon - A Single Man
Ben - Duck Soup
Jeff - MVP II: Most Vertical Primate
Jason - Rio Bravo
Adrienne - Being There
Squarehead - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Cheddar - Angel Face
Arthur - Cleo From 5 to 7

5. Is there a film(s) that you once loved (and maybe even purchased) that now makes you question what you ever saw in it?

I've made quite a few questionable DVD purchases in my lifetime. I remember buying DVDs a lot in college and I spent a good amount of time re-watching movies. Now I re-watch things much less and I'm not buying as many DVDs anymore.

But while I'm thinking of it, I bought the two-disc copy of Judd Apatow's FUNNY PEOPLE. I haven't seen it in years and don't feel the desire to re-watch it. I don't know that I ever "loved" it but clearly I liked it enough to buy it. I think I just wanted to get my special features on in the hopes that it would make the film a little better. While it does have some funny jokes/moments, overall the movie blows.

6. IFC has started releasing films on demand the same day they hit theaters. Would you like more studios to do this or are you afraid it may strike the death knell for movie theaters?

Going to the movies seems to be one of America's most popular pastimes. For that reason, I don't think we will see the death of them in our lifetime. But this question does raise an interesting point, and with the rise of instant streaming and On-Demand downloads, we now spend more time watching movies in our living rooms.

But I would like more independent studios to do this because, as we all know, if can be pretty hard to track down certain foreign and independent films. I'd happily pay five bucks to see a movie on-demand that I wouldn't really to get see anywhere else. It's a great deal.

7. Favorite movie(s) set during the summertime?

Would we call CLAIRE'S KNEE a summertime film? I forget when that one is set. Anyway, that and DO THE RIGHT THING.

8. Which director working today do you think would make a great western if given the chance (assuming he/she hasn't already made one)? Or if you don't like westerns, which director working today do you think would make a great sci-fi flick (also assuming he/she hasn't made one yet)?

Fincher and Refn are great answers for the western. Maybe a Coen brothers sci-fi flick? A Malick western would be pretty cool and boring.

9. Describe a perfect moment in a movie (courtesy of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule).

One of my favorite movie moments is the ending of CHRISTMAS IN JULY. Even though it's obvious that Dick Powell's slogan is going to be chosen in the end, it's still a great moment, especially given the roller coaster ride of the previous 60 minutes. It's a special moment because it made me feel overcome with joy. When a movie gets you to care about the story and the characters in that way, where their happiness mirrors your own, it's perfect.

10. Top-five films of 1990:

1. Goodfellas
2. Close-Up
3. Miller's Crossing
4. Metropolitan
5. Edward Scissorhands

It has to be GOODFELLAS but CLOSE-UP is also pretty worthy of the top spot. I'll give MILLER'S CROSSING the nod over METROPOLITAN; MC is the better film, but I'd rather re-watch METROPOLITAN if I had to choose between the two. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS is one of Burton's best and it beats out TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES for the fifth spot. I do love that film as well, Brandon. For a film based on a video game/cartoon, it's pretty dark. There's also great make-up/costume design on the Turtles and Splinter. Casey Jones rules as well.

I hope to write about BEFORE MIDNIGHT soon.