Before Midnight
June 26, 2013 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Summer Talks: "Before Midnight" In a conversation moderated by Phillip Lopate, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke discuss their new film Before Midnight as well as their nearly 20-year collaboration that now spans three features. [Warning, the last two links have some spoilers, but the first link does not]
posted by KokuRyu (51 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I posted this interview because it is probably the best I have found so far on YouTube, and really showcases the dynamic that exists between Delpy, Hawke and Linklater.

And I love the three films.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:42 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great film. Taken as a standalone film it's one of the great achievements of American cinema, as the third part of this series it establishes the Before trilogy as one of the greatest and most satisfying ever made. Midnight is the first of the three to have a score (composer Graham Reynolds), and it's fantastic as well, a beautiful theme.
posted by mediated self at 11:50 AM on June 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

Impressionistic masterpieces that touch the core of the human experience.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:52 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wish Linklater had cast Campbell Scott as Jesse. Hawke has the screen presence and wit of a dirty urinal.
posted by pxe2000 at 11:52 AM on June 26, 2013

Thanks! I still haven't seen the movie but I enjoyed the trio's appearance on The Treatment.
posted by sudama at 11:53 AM on June 26, 2013

Check out Ethan Hawke's recent, unusually thorough AMA.
posted by Jpfed at 11:57 AM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wish Linklater had cast Campbell Scott as Jesse. Hawke has the screen presence and wit of a dirty urinal.

I couldn't imagine anyone else playing him, especially given he helped write the films and knows the character best.

I would be okay with your statement if you prefaced it with something like, "Listen, I don't have the best taste in movies, but -"
posted by windbox at 12:11 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, Linklater, Delpy and Hawke did a joint AMA a few days after the solo one.
posted by bonehead at 12:14 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like Hawke in these movies, but can't take him in anything else. Must be a testament to Linklaters skill.
posted by jonmc at 12:23 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I thought that with the latest movie, Hawke's character came off as overly sympathetic, while Delpy's character came across as a broad caricature of 40-something female rage.

My wife, however, identified with Delpy's character (I was kind of wondering what would happen after the two of us went to see the movie... would it provoke a fight?), and Hawke's character pushed her buttons.

What few if any of the reviews mention is that Delpy recently (last 5 years or so) became a mother, and I imagine a lot of the stuff she is talking about could be based on what it means to be a working mom.

And since this is really an impressionist moment in time, with none of the traditional character development and character arcs, I suppose Delpy's character isn't so much of an uneven caricature as the portrayal of an emotion.

Such fascinating movies, if only because Hawke is the same age as I am, and because I was doing the same thing as his character in the movie in 1995.

Our friends' 15 year old daughter babysat our kids while we all went out to watch the movie the other night. Her father is a filmmaker, so she has an interest in seeing the film, but unlike the first two, I don't think this movie will make any sense to anyone under 40.

Maybe I'm wrong.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:24 PM on June 26, 2013

...their nearly 20-year collaboration that now spans FOUR features...

(If you count Waking Life, which yes, I do. - Can't wait to see Before Midnight!)
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

The three talk about that in the AMA I linked above:

Delpy: She's much nicer than me. MUCH, much nicer than me. No, seriously, she's more normal... we have things in common, but I would say that she has many, many, many things very different from who I am, but it's kind of fun to write this character in character. I call it 'method writing.'

Hawke (in reposonse): Sometimes I feel Julie and I have a parallel life, and each one of these films turns out to be a stop on a railway station. Or something like that. Where we're able to live this parallel life. Jesse is part me, part Rick, and part Julie. All three of us, as writers, have worked really hard to try to create a three dimensional character onscreen, a character where it's difficult to see where the actor ends and the character starts. That's always been our goal.
posted by bonehead at 12:33 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is a spoiler, but...

One of the most practical, rational but devastating observations Celine (Delpy's character) makes in the movie is Jesse basically did fuck up. The years that he lost with his son aren't ever coming back, and there is nothing he can do about it now.

That really resonated with me. It's like 40 or 41 is a fulcrum or whatever. That past ain't never coming back.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:39 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I thought that with the latest movie, Hawke's character came off as overly sympathetic, while Delpy's character came across as a broad caricature of 40-something female rage.

Saw it last night, and I thought they were both, at times, spectacular assholes. Jesse was condescending and paternalistic throughout (the slow clap, the "My writing isn't a hobby!!!" and "If you spent those 8 hours a day you do bitching on your song writing you'd be amazing") but Celine pulled some amazing bullshit, including bringing up Jesse's "plot" to move her to Chicago in the middle of a pleasant meal with friends. But I did think Celine's moment of empathy about Hank and Jesse was pretty enlightening. Despite her fears, and the claim that she was irrational, she was able to approach the problem much more rationally than he was.

Also dude totally cheated on her. Ass.

Anyway, I'm not yet 30, but am married and appreciated it as an honest portrait of a marriage. It made me cry.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:49 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

I thought it was pitch perfect, and once the long calm before the storm dissipated—that writers' retreat was just a little too idyllic; you could tell trouble was brewing—possibly the best filmic representation of what goes on behind the closed doors of a long-term relationship I've ever seen.

It's interesting, though, the backlash that Delpy's character has generated in certain spheres. She's angry and in many ways unlikeable, and I really admire Delpy's (and Linklater's) willingness to go there with Celine. I know that connecting actors' lives with the characters they play is trite (no matter how much this trilogy in particular invites that kind of analysis), but you get a sense of a person using their physical ageing as a way of breaking free from the assumptions their looks generate in other people: taking the chance to be angry and funny and rude and emotionally manipulative rather than simply a blank surface for the projection of male desire.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:50 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love the French translation of the newest movie title here in Quebec: Avant Minuit Tout Est Possible.
posted by Kitteh at 1:04 PM on June 26, 2013

Call me a philistine, but the last thing I want to do when I go to the movies is be immersed in the low-key tension of a long-term relationship between two middle-aged, middle-class educated white people, one of whom has a difficult relationship with his teenage son from his first marriage. That's the real world, that's no kind of escape.

I'll wait for The World's End in August, now that's a third-in-the-trilogy worth watching!
posted by headnsouth at 1:05 PM on June 26, 2013

I've never seen any of these, not sure how I missed them since I'm a fan of Linkletters.
posted by octothorpe at 1:12 PM on June 26, 2013

Also dude totally cheated on her. Ass.

SPOILER: I got the impression she had done so, as well.
posted by sutt at 1:18 PM on June 26, 2013

Also, did anyone notice that during the discussion Delpy balked at Hawke's jokes (multiple times), in a very similar manner to one of the clips that played out on the screen behind them?

I wonder if that dynamic was a conscious addition to the film, or whether it came out in their improvs.
posted by sutt at 1:20 PM on June 26, 2013

SPOILER: I got the impression she had done so, as well.

Could be. His accusations were kind of gibberish, though. Like, was I mishearing or did he accuse her of blowing Gorbachev?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:27 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't help but think that the story is slowly dovetailing with Scenes From a Marriage. Which is not a bad thing.
posted by Beardman at 1:28 PM on June 26, 2013


PhoBWanKenobi - I thought he was referencing a conference where Gorbachev was present, but that she had blown someone else. Personally, I think he was off-target with that one.

My (too young, too inexperienced) take on the film is that it's a beautiful illustration of coming to terms with the rest of your life, with all the missed opportunities and regrets that come with that. Which is kind of a theme in this series.
posted by Magnakai at 1:34 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's the real world, that's no kind of escape.

I like pulp and escapism as much as the next person, but sometimes I want to see/read something that'll make me reflect on life, rather than help me hide from it.
posted by IjonTichy at 1:40 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I thought it was a great take on how people actually argue in a long-term relationship, sometimes really unfair, sometimes surprisingly compassionate. People are really at their best and worst with the folks they're closest with. It was also great to see each of them taking multiple steps to de-escalate, but that they were just enough out of sync to never reciprocate, and to have the whole conversation spin almost completely out of control.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:57 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband and I (41 and 35, respectively) were having a particularly rough patch when This is Forty came out, but I think we'll go see this one. That said, I'm a little frightened of the, uh, potential universality of the themes. As someone said above, I hope it doesn't start a fight.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:59 PM on June 26, 2013

Saw it with my sweety, we both want to see it again and will probably buy the DVD. Prompted some interesting discussion that is enriching our relationship. The first two movies were films about limerence, fun, but this one is about what's left when that's worn off, and I found some profundities.

KokuRyu: "...Hawke's character came off as overly sympathetic..."

I think one of the "sneaks up on you later" parts of this film is realizing just how much of a dick Hawke's character is while he's coming off as sympathetic. "'re right. [beat] As always." Yes, we laugh at her lines, at what seems to be the ridiculous overreaction and the deliberate fight picking, but he's exploring just how far he can go in this relationship too. Both of them are testing to see if they really want to be there, trying to weigh the comfort of the known and the bonds of the commitments made against the freedom that might be out there. Often he's hinting at possibilities he'd like to explore, and she's honestly answering the actual subtext.

To chesty_a_arthur's concerns, I heard about the tone of the film and was worried about that, and I am super glad to have seen this film with my partner. Yes, there is discord, but it's an exploration that can, I think, speak to how we can see and address some of those issues in our relationships.

And, yes, SPOILER: I both believe that both of them committed the extramarital genital contact they accuse each other of, and Jesse's "I am one hundred percent committed to this relationship" statement.
posted by straw at 2:13 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I thought that with the latest movie, Hawke's character came off as overly sympathetic, while Delpy's character came across as a broad caricature of 40-something female rage.

I think what makes this such a great film is that I felt exactly the opposite. Jesse comes off as selfish and adolescent, especially the way he tries to justify his affair. Plus he's asking her to give up her career and relocate their children to another continent so. . .he can spend 4 years every other weekend with his son? Seriously? After neglecting their own children, no less!

I dunno, maybe it's because her thoughts on the writer's retreat were more or less identical to mine.

Also: if they make another one in nine years, the son will be the same age Ethan Hawke was when they filmed the first movie. Hmm.
posted by Ndwright at 2:29 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I dunno, maybe it's because her thoughts on the writer's retreat were more or less identical to mine.

Word. That was some gender role bullshittery there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:35 PM on June 26, 2013

Ndwright: Same. I thought Jesse was largely (but not completely) unsympathetic in the film. Also, I got that Jesse had cheated but I didn't catch any indication that Celine had been unfaithful during their relationship...early in the film when he suggests that she "blew" someone at that conference he points out that it was before they got together.
posted by mediated self at 2:35 PM on June 26, 2013

I think his "blowing Gorbachev / Vaclac Havel" comment was just his attempt to clumsily pull a punch and, instead of saying, "but you blew XX", somehow turn down the heat of the conversation by making a joke. Which is totally characteristic of him.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:50 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also thought the movie was interesting because it referenced virtually every stage of human life in terms of relationships:

His son experiences his first kiss.

There are the two young lovers who resemble Celine and Jesse from 18 years ago.

You have Ariadni (Athina Rachel Tsangari) and Stefanos who are, due to their age, (probably) happier, mirror-images of Celine and Jesse.

There's Patrick, who represents old age, who's own wife (I think) chooses not to accompany her husband on retreat.

There's Natalia (Xenia Kalogeropoulou) who is Patrick's mirror; I believe she and her dead husband believed in living separate lives, but they were still very close.

And then there are Jesse's grandparents, now dead, who were inseparable, even in death. No funeral for his grandfather, instead their ashes will be interred together.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:57 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jesse's weak-ass "If you're asking me whether I'm totally committed to this relationship..." line has already become a multipurpose catchphrase for my wife and I:

"Are you going to do the dishes?"
"If you're asking me whether I'm totally committed to this relationship..."

I hadn't seen either of the first two, while my wife had seen both. We both enjoyed it but thought the ending was a bit glib after all that preceded it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:13 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I thought the ending was perfect.
posted by mediated self at 3:14 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I was pretty cynical when I first heard they were doing a third movie, thinking: OK damn they are going to run this into the ground too. BUT, loving the first two, I went to see it, and I'm sure glad I did: it's fantastic, and the three films together are a real goddamn triumph of film, and should be boxed & seen together for all time. They are very well written, wonderfully performed with perfect chemistry and timing, and beautifully photographed. They capture the stages of life so well, it's hard to describe fairly.

I'd say a fourth one would ruin the magic but at this point I really doubt it.
posted by xmutex at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I thought the movie could have easily ended in the hotel. I would have bought it, either way.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:53 PM on June 26, 2013

The sheer depth of feeling that these films generate for me (and seemingly pretty much everyone who is a fan of them!) is incredible. It's like they're not only an essential portrayal of the feeling of falling in love, they are also the cinematic equivalent of it. I don't know for sure how Delpy and Hawke actually feel about each other, but these three people came together to make something astounding. There are just few movies that match the idealism they convey as a writing team, both about love and about what a movie can actually convey. I have always loved Linklater's work-- personally I totally agree with his conception that seeing two people talk about something is the most interesting thing that can be caught on film-- these two work as a pretty good team for advertising the movie. The interview does come off as very immediate somehow

Over the years... Hawke and Delpy have each had their own careers, and I am especially interested in Delpy's own movies, and would be curious to know what these three think of each other (as people, not just as a creative team). It's hard to imagine that these films didn't play some role in HER own progression as an actor-writer-director. And it's pretty hard not to think that this is a great opportunity for Hawke to revamp his image, especially with talking about "feminism" and how much the movie has taught him. Before Sunset came out around the EXACT time he split with Uma Thurman to start a new family, and a lot of people faulted him for that. It's so interesting to see how these characters could reflect the people who wrote them...
posted by kettleoffish at 4:07 PM on June 26, 2013

Early 40s unmarried hetero dude here: The movie was painful for me in its realism. I don't do well with those sorts of fights, in movies or irl.

I thought he was a total dick. She wasn't perfect, but she was much more sympathetic than he was. I can't imagine ever talking to someone in the sarcastic, derisive manner he did to her.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 4:09 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Without meaning to sound glib that's marriage for you (at certain times).
posted by KokuRyu at 4:17 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I loved the first movie, tolerated the second and walked out of the third. Maybe it's because I am 'only 39' and not married but I just couldn't take the non-stop talking and Juliet's half-vain, half-frustrated character. I found them to be a couple I wouldn't want to be in the same room as- so I left.
And again, I loved loved the first film.
posted by bquarters at 4:45 PM on June 26, 2013

The first two are my favorite films of all time. I just love what they do. I think I'll come to appreciate this one as much eventually, but after really loving these characters since 1995 (and tracking along with their life stages--I'm 41 and married) it's really painful to see them at this difficult moment in the relationship. It felt truer than any movie I've seen, but because of that I found it enormously difficult to watch. There were far too many moments of resonance with difficult nights I have had in relationships.

I'm a bit torn on the ending. Some people are reading it as "well, Celine went for Jesse's clever banter again, and that fight is all over," but I didn't see it that way. He does manage to create an opportunity to salvage the night, but those issues aren't going away any time soon. There's a glimmer of hope, but certainly not the last word. And, of course, one of the major themes of these films is that there is more going on that you can see in the moment.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:02 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

I watched the first one when I was fourteen. Thought it was romantic but too talky. Skipped the second. I'm 31 now and they're my partner's favorite movies, so the other night I watched Before Sunset in preparation for seeing Before Midnight with him yesterday.

I hated Before Sunset. Hated it so much I couldn't stop talking about it and alienated the people I watched it with, who had an incredible fondness for the characters. I hated how pleased the characters (and the movie itself) seemed to be with their mundane observations, how special we were expected to think they were. I couldn't bear the selfishness of the characters - everything from the way they make the driver wait outside for them while they putz around her apartment to the way Jesse apparently decides to inform his wife about the end of their marriage by not getting on the plane home. I couldn't stop imagining that wife, having read that book of his, knowing her husband was in France, and finding out he left her for the woman he hardly knows but with whom he'd always been in love. It was awful, and I felt like we were supposed to forgive them for it all because they were so charming and romantic and in love.

I saw Before Midnight last night. It is maybe one of the best movies I've ever seen, and it made me love the other ones in retrospect, too. Because the seeds of all their unhappiness are there, in Before Sunset and probably in Before Sunrise, too: Celine's sharpness and her need to argue and one-up, and her refusal to ever pull any punches; Jesse's glibness and horniness and belief he can charm his way out of serious situations: they're 41 and they're the same people they always were, only the youthful polish and charm is finally scraped off them, and now they're just left with each other. And every single terrible, selfish and stupid thing they've done for love has had its consequences - Jesse leaving his wife, leaving his son, writing books about the real people in his life, Celine having kids she didn't quite want and sacrificing her ambitions to family and letting it turn her bitter and resentful. They love each other, but their love didn't protect them from anything, or excuse them for anything, or make them better people. It just is.

I don't think any movie other than the 7-up series has made me feel this way. I still have chills.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 7:25 PM on June 26, 2013 [17 favorites]

I thought it was great apart from the gun battle after the credits, really no need, it took away from the rest of the film.
posted by Damienmce at 7:00 AM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I haven't seen Before Midnight yet, as I was hoping to find time to re-watch the others first. But I don't think that's gonna happen. And thing is I don' t really remember what happened in the second one.

Should I just go see it anyway?
posted by dnash at 10:49 AM on June 27, 2013

Definitely. I hadn't seen them since Before Sunset was released and did absolutely fine. The fine details of the previous films don't matter one iota as much as the characters. You'll be fine.
posted by Magnakai at 11:09 AM on June 27, 2013

The first movie is very good. But the 2nd is by far my favorite as it touched all the pain points of revisiting "what could have been" and showed how they're feeling angry about (or submitting to) "what is" now that they're older. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time - was Jesse going to make his plane? The third movie was good, though the tension of "will they / won't they" (in this case "split up" is the question) is absent. There was never any doubt in my mind that they would (SPOILER) stay together, because underneath all the sh*t, it is clear that they love each other deeply. When love really dies, it turns into indifference. The amount of passion and frustration they felt is because they still care. But without the tension, the movie is still very good. All the arguments are ones that I've had in my relationship; both have their obvious flaws and relative emotional deficits, each person has a different and valid point of view, no one is right or wrong, but in the end only one decision can be made. I saw much more of Celene's crazy side and Jesse's immaturity. I also noticed how the rhythm of the arguments was very realistic. People don't just sit down and argue something out like it's a meeting at work. In real life the conversation meanders and builds and lulls and revisits and circles the core issues. I thought the ending was kind of lame though. Without the "time pressure" of the previous movies (maybe they could have had a lawyer's custody arrangement of Jesse's son to sign before midnight?), the ending just kind of petered out. They're frustrated, they want different things, but they still care. Fini.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:40 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seems to me that there are two ways to end a story: "happily ever after", and "if they haven't died, then they are still alive".

The ending to the first is a litmus test (as laid out in Jesse's answer to the "did they meet?" question in the opening of the second. The ending to the second is in how you interpret the fairly unambiguous action: No way Jesse's going to explain this away to his wife, so either this is the most romantic thing ever, or Jesse's a huge asshole shirking his responsibility to his family.


The ending to the third is really the first unambiguous choice between those two endings: This wasn't the end, or a new beginning. This is one night in an ongoing relationship. Jesse is committed to pursuing Celine (and understands that even though he's the famous writer worshipped by bookstore clerks, that those encounters aren't the connection he has with her), Celine loves that feeling of being pursued. She needs to know that he's seeing her as something other than "... a fat-ass middle-aged mom losing her hair ...".

So, yeah, the ending is tough because it isn't the adrenaline rush of "Honey, you are gonna miss that plane" / "I know", it's "...and tomorrow they'll wake up, and maybe take the kids to the ruins on the way to the airport", and the movie can't answer any of the questions that many of us are exploring. It just asks those questions in, perhaps, a way that can spur our own discussions.
posted by straw at 1:32 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

The best part of the Reddit AMA was finding out that Hawke is working with Linklater on another extended time frame film called Boyhood.

*That* sounds even more interesting than the Before trilogy if that's possible.
posted by Jaybo at 1:39 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

There was never any doubt in my mind that they would (SPOILER) stay together,

I don't know. This movie is just a point in time. None of the conflict was resolved at the end of the movie. The movie was about the conflict itself.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:51 PM on June 27, 2013


Before Midnight in some respects killed me in the same way that it always does when people I like fight, especially those people who in some respects we've grown up with over the years if we've seen the films with those time jumps. But it's still a miracle and masterpiece and hard for me as though it is for me to say, I don't think they survive, but I do think in however many years time we will have another film, in which the couple, having lost track will meet again (the girls graduation?) and have another moment and it'll be different again because unlike these intervening nine years they won't have watched themselves change as much.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:21 AM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

These fights were so real. I've had similar. I've seen my parents fight like this. Well, not quite like this - but with the same sense of passion. These are the arguments you have with people you love, not the people you've fallen out of love with.

These films defy characterisation, really. This is just another moment in time, even moreso than the other films. The other films were propelled by them trying to make the most of the time they had together; Midnight is essentially one day in their lives, where there is no sense they need to be anywhere. Midnight is coming, but it won't change anything. Not like that sunrise did. Not like the plane Jesse missed at sunset.

A friend noted that the title alludes to the Cinderella story - and there's an allusion to that when Celine talks about what their daughters believe about Jesse & Celine being married and why the daughters think that's important. Because society tells us it's important. But the film proves that even unmarried, people can be drawn together and held together for a lifetime by their passions.

And both of these characters showed their ugly sides in this film. It's so strange to even be seeing that side of them, though they argued a little in Sunset - where those moments were brittle, these scenes were robust and scorching.

It's so hard to watch this film. Even the opening scenes with Jesse and Hank made me teary, because it was so great to see Jesse and so lovely to see him with his son. And the seeds of the rest of the film are sewed there.

Astonishing. Both this film and the trilogy. 2022 seems a long way away.
posted by crossoverman at 3:10 AM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

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