SFIFF: The Festival Closes with Before Midnight

Thursday night, this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival ended at the Castro with the local premiere of Before Midnight, Richard Linklater’s threequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.

(It wasn’t actually the festival’s end.  Six other films screened at various theaters after Before Midnight began. The last one, Il Futuro, started at the Pacific Film Archive at 8:50; Before Midnight was over by then.)

Although I came in skeptical about the whole idea of an art house threequel, Before Midnight won be over. I easily give it an A.

This time around, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) have been living together for nine years, and they might as well be married. They have twins, a life imagetogether, and bodies transitioning into middle age. Like the previous films, this one takes place in a single day, but they don’t spend it walking around a city. They’re on vacation in Greece, and they drive, share a talkative dinner with six other people, and spend considerable time in a hotel room. And they fight. Hard. They still love ach other, but you’re not sure if the relationship will last. The result is both sad and sexy.

The film was written by Delpy, Hawke, and director Richard Linklater. After the movie, Delpy and Linklater came onstage for Q&A (Hawke was unable to attend). Some highlights:

  • Linklater: The decision to do the second [move] was scary… Somewhere we realized that Jesse and Celine were still alive and we had to see what they’re doing. But this one was more difficult.
  • Linklater, on a big dinner scene where they interact with three other couples: We couldn’t do the same thing again. We had to see them in their lives. And that included other people.
  • Delpy: I come from a musical background. I remember all the training. Same thing with acting. The goal is to feel like you just stepped in and did it. But it takes tons of rehearsal.
  • Delpy, on exposing her breasts for the first time in this series: We knew we needed to go that far. You don’t have sex with a bra. [To Linklater] Maybe you do.
  • Linklater, talking about the choice to give them twins: I have identical twins. Those two kids [the child actors, not his own twins] in the back seat were wonderful in that 13-minute take.
  • Delpy, on the big argument scene: You get to write the arguments, and that’s great. It’s your dream argument. I wish I could have arguments like that.

After the Q&A, I made my way to the Closing Night Party at Ruby Skye, a downtown club I’d never before visited. It was large enough to be comfortable. The music was loud enough to enjoy, but not so loud as to block conversation. Food booths around the place, each run by a different caterer, offered a wide variety of tasty but mostly unhealthy fare.

It was a nice way to end the festival, and I regretted having to leave early.