“Westward Ho” is branded on the American consciousness, and every generation gets its own account of the opening of the frontier as filtered through the era’s pop-culture. For some it’s a dog-eared copy of Allan W. Eckert’s The Frontiersman or a childhood coonskin cap like Fess Parker’s TV incarnation of Davy Crockett. For my contemporaries, the associations are purely pixelated, tied to playing wagon master in Oregon Trail for Apple IIe: “Should we ford the river?” and “So-and-so has dysentery” and all of that en route to the Willamette Valley. None of this, however, has quite the heft and authority of 1930’s The Big Trail. Read more.
It is a half-truth, yet to be universally acknowledged, that no matter how revered a filmmaker is, should he or she have the temerity to change course later in life and produce a film about a breakdown of a marriage, then a) it will be an illuminating, game-changing treasure, and b) a good number of hitherto loyal fans, including many from the critical fraternity, will hate it. As this came to pass for Woody Allen (Husbands and Wives), Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut), and Terrence Malick (To the Wonder), so it did in 1954 for the father of Italian neorealism, Roberto Rossellini. Read more.
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.