Before Midnight

Before Midnight
Starring: Julie Delphy, Ethan Hawke - Dir: Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater, for all his association with early slacker movies (Dazed and Confused, Slacker) is a man who seems to run in many directions at once and who has amassed a fascinating catalogue of films, ably crossing genres and mixing mainstream success with experimental projects. It’s hard to imagine one director making films as diverse as School Of Rock, Me and Orson Welles, Bernie, and A Scanner Darkly (not to mention Bad News Bears).
Then there are his “talking films”, films where people mainly talk. Like the animated Waking Life. Or Tape. Or what will probably go down as his masterworks, the (now) trilogy of Before Sunrise (1995), Before Sunset (2004) and this new film which is in every way the equal of its predecessors.
Each of the films are two handers with Delphy and Hawke as Jesse and Celine. The first saw them meet on a train in Europe and spend a night talking in Vienna. He dreams of becoming a writer. They part, not expecting to meet again. Nine years later the second film had them reunite on the French leg of Jesse’s book tour. Now, another nine years later, they live in Paris with twin daughters and have just spent a summer in Greece. The vacation is now over, Jesse must send his teenage son off to the States, and he starts questioning his life.
Again it’s the two of them talking. Again it’s quite brilliant. Recommended (obviously) or, if you haven’t seen any of them, start at the beginning.

Is this The Wolverine film that fanboys have been waiting for? Haven’t a clue. People seemed pretty down on the clawed one’s last solo outing which I thought was pretty good. But they wanted more of “the mythology”... Which apparently involved going to Japan. So here we are in a sort of yakuza adventure which has a lot of fighting but a distinct absence of mutants. I guess it depends which bits of the franchise you like. I like mutants. Though undoubtedly well made this seemed to me the least interesting so far of the various X-Men outings.

In Revenge for Jolly! Harry (Brian Petso, channelling Crispin Glover) is our unreliable lowlife narrator. About to leave town to avoid debts he returns from an all-night beer session to find Jolly dead. Jolly was his small dog, the love of his life, now murdered. A wild – if rather low-key – rampage of revenge ensues as he and mate Cecil (Oscar Isaac) search for the killer, shoot people, and drink beer. Elijah Wood, Kirsten Wiig and Ryan Phillippe all pop up briefly. The tone is indie – Coen meets Tarantino, modest budget – the humour deadpan black. No socially redeeming features.

Is it wrong to enjoy White House Down so much? I know it’s complete rubbish but of this year’s two “Die Hard in the White House” films only this one has the courage to plunge relentlessly over the top into complete abject silliness. Thus we get Jamie Foxx as the ass-kicking president protected by security bloke Channing Tatum after terrorists take over. Best bit is when they hare around the White House rose garden in the presidential limo with the prez hanging out the window firing a rocket launcher. Bet Obama never thought of that. (The villains are better in this one too.)

Given the huge box office success of The Conjuring it would seem that if you stick a “this is a true story” label on supernatural stuff people will flock to see any old twaddle. Not that The Conjuring is necessarily twaddle. But, given Hollywood’s propensity for exaggeration and America’s overabundance of crazies, the truth of the story becomes unknowable and irrelevant. The only question is whether it’s a good horror film. Based on real life “psychic investigators” Ed and Lorraine Wallace, it has them helping the Perron family (mum, dad, five daughters) who have just bought a haunted house where Bad Things happened. Director James Wan orchestrates the rising tide of increasingly malevolent spookiness with spirit (Boom! Tish!).


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