It’s fitting that the feature-length filmmaking career of Richard Linklater opens with a dream, or, to be more precise, the recollection of a dream—which amounts essentially to the same thing. Dreams reorganize, interpret, and filter the story of our lives during sleep; recollecting a dream reorganizes, interprets, and filters the elements of unconscious processes.
Before Midnight is the first of Richard Linklater’s films charting the ever-expanding romance of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) that hints at a silence between the lines. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are loquacious works—generous, ever unspooling rap sessions—because the situations of the characters dictate that form. In 1995’s Sunrise, the two starry-eyed twenty-something lovers, coasting on the fumes of young amour, had only one night in Vienna to get to know each other before boarding a morning train and possibly never seeing each other again. In 2004’s Sunset, the two thirty-somethings were forced to do a quick, real-time game of catch-up in Paris before newly published writer Jesse left on an evening jet plane back to his wife and child in the States. Now, in Midnight, just-past-forty Celine and Jesse have long been a couple, unmarried but with accessories—a pair of adorable twin daughters. Early on, we glean that they practice a comfortable, mundane, domestic routine, and at the moment are enjoying a lazy summer vacation in the Southern Peloponnese of Greece. So, for the first time, their narrative has been contrived with a distinct lack of urgency. Will these two, known to us so much for their intellectually searching, bedeviling, and sometimes maddening conversation, still have things to talk about? Or more to the point, will they find the time to do it? It’s a question that this very self-conscious and very special film is quite aware of, and one it responds to brilliantly.
Like several of the filmmaker’s early characters, Frances flits about the fuzzy limbo between college and the real world. At 27, she’s beginning to feel the heft of time. (As someone says in Mr. Jealousy, “You can only find incompetence endearing for so long.”)
Twenty Shots to Be Henceforth Retired from Film Vocabulary
1. Moving clouds sped up.
2. It starts off in a long shot and a guy’s all far away and walking toward the camera and you’re all “Uh-oh am I going to have to watch him walk the whole way?” and you do and it takes three minutes or more. “Ooh, look at me, I’m sculpting with time!” Fuck you.
Though it scans like an impenetrable extended anti-narrative of non sequiturs peppered with visual tics and odd happenings, it’s also somehow the most human and approachable film Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas has yet made. This may seem like a perverse thing to say about a movie that twice features a glowing red horned Beelzebub with a prominent phallus and toolbox striding through an innocuous household in the middle of the night.
Spike Lee begins 25th Hour by placing the camera directly inside the Tribute of Light—the defiant 9/11 memorial that replaced the twin towers with shafts of illumination. It’s an artwork that intangibly reconstitutes the architecture of the past as an installation that literally lights the present. As seen in cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto’s oblique compositions, the thick blue beams resemble those of a projector, firing out into the infinite darkness as though in search of a screen. It’s only when the camera retreats for a wider view, the first percussive strains of Terence Blanchard’s mournful score building to a possessed wail, that we get a clear picture of what we’re watching. Read more.
Because a high-ambition, personal oddball like this can still happen within a big American studio division like Fox Searchlight, and, even when frustrated in postproduction stasis, can eventually be induced into release by a vocal groundswell of support.
Read more about Margaret.
Trance’s most intriguing element is its aforementioned imagining of London as a Ballardian shadow space, with clichéd landmark locations carefully excised from the frame. Boyle has claimed, harking back to the voiceover at the beginning of Edinburgh-set Shallow Grave (“This could be any city—they’re all the same”), that he wanted his London to be mythic and anonymous, and to a large extent he succeeds, boiling the landscape down to a handful of modish locations often attractively lit in blues, oranges, and reds. Yet this sense of a remote cityscape is somewhat undermined by the film’s unnecessary formal hyperactivity—the blank mood is frequently undone by the director’s “look at me!” showmanship.