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'Before Midnight' Takes a Bow at the Paramount

Richard Linklater on the future of his beloved trilogy
Jessi Cape, 8:54pm, Sun. Mar. 10, 2013
image courtesy of blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/
A delayed start time had many in line wondering if Saturday night’s SXSW screening of Before Midnight would begin before midnight, but as expected, the third installment of Jesse and Celine’s saga was well worth the wait.

SXSW Film Producer Janet Pierson moderated a Q&A with hometown hero Richard Linklater after Before Midnight's regional premiere Saturday night at the Paramount.

On his close collaboration with the film’s cowriters and lead actors, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, Linklater described the assembling of a script as a “meticulous” and “grueling process.” After realizing that the characters of Jesse and Celine were still alive, the trio embarked upon a trajectory similar to nine years ago when they hashed out the framework for Before Sunset. From jokes and banter to outline to the fleshing out of script in workshop mode, Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy fined-tuned the dialogue-driven script and began the process of rehearsing every line for flow.

One audience member remarked that the relationship was much deeper this go-round, to which Linklater agreed and cited age and time as the main culprits. The burning question of whether the trilogy is complete or if there's a fourth film laying-in-wait evoked a chuckle and a smile from Linklater, who said, “I’d be happy if this was the last one, but who knows.” But has he worked it out yet? “Oh no. Hell no.” His recent festival joke was that perhaps they could “skip the next four installments and then just remake Amour.”

And inevitably someone asked from what source the master filmmaker draws his inspiration. “That’s a big question,” Linklater said. “From everything – anything. From being alive.” Pierson said Linklater is engaged in many things, to which he agreed, and said, “[Before Midnight] is a good movie to throw everything you're thinking into.”

His penchant for wonderful, long takes led way to the discussion of the 13-minute car scene with Jesse and Celine. Linklater said he wanted to do it that way so the audience could “hang out in real time with Jesse and Celine,” and that it only took three takes. “Not just anyone can do that. It’s a tribute to [Julie and Ethan].” Besides, only in Greece would the location allow for repeated 40-minute lock-ups of the highway. Why Greece, anyway? “I loved it,“ the director said. “I just had a great feeling.”

Predictably, someone asked about writing such a strong female character, Celine. Seemingly parallel to what many of us were thinking (Uh, don’t you mean strong character?), Linklater responded that he “felt [himself] in both characters equally” lending to what he called the “masculine-feminine balance” of the film. “Julie says she is not Celine,” and all three of the writers have run with the characters, letting them develop throughout the course of the films.

An audience member noted the reference in Julie’s character’s mention of Pompeii to Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy. Linklater acknowledged the ode to the decimating relationship movie with a little chuckle, saying of the similarities, “You can feel the alienation. I love that but I think our characters are doing a little better. I don’t know; it’s ambiguous. I hope Ethan had a better date than Sanders.”

The second and third films pick up so flawlessly from each previous film that it seems as if the team had a 20-year vision from the get-go. Yet he said, “No, we weren't thinking about this journey 18 years ago.” He described the “very intense relationship making [the] movie" as a “wonderful creative experience.” Linklater also joked that it “makes no sense,” but it might be the “lowest grossing film to make a sequel… or a trilogy.”

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