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Short Takes on Film
Ben Nyce | Via Latina


a very talky film, full of wit, affection, cruelty, solipsism.
Click to enlarge.


“Before Midnight” (Landmark, La Jolla) is a very talky film, full of wit, affection, cruelty, solipsism – you name it. It’s a film written by the director Richard Linklater and its two stars Julie Delpy (Celine) and Ethan Hawke (Jesse). The dialogue has a seemingly casual, spontaneous feel but it has of course been carefully crafted. The film is the third in a trilogy comprised of “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset,” in which we find Celine and Jesse moving through youth toward early middle age and its attendant anxieties. Jesse is a successful writer full of verbal pyrotechnics and Celine is both charmed and resentful of his skills. She has a chance for a job in Paris, while Jesse feels the need to be closer to his son Hank who lives most of the time in Chicago with his mother.

This conflict reveals the main issue: Celine’s feeling that she has confined herself to the role of mother to their twin daughters, inhibiting her personal growth. This feeling is intensified when they spend six weeks (!) as guests of a Greek writer where the men philosophize on the terrace about love, sex, women and writing while the women work in the kitchen and joke about the men. An opening sequence on the drive from the airport is far too long, though it reveals despite the affectionate humor the underlying tensions in Celine and Jesse’s relationship.
Another long sequence at the dinner table is more successful, as the assembled company, old and young, discuss romantic love and marriage. Here, Linklater’s camera moves nimbly, revealing the speaker’s attitude and the various reactions it provokes. The culminating sequence in a hotel room involves Celine’s resentment at her predicament and her determination to leave Jesse. Here the provisional, anxiety-producing nature of their relations is fully revealed. Will they stay together? We don’t know and neither do they.

a wonderful example of
documentary film at its best.
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“Stories We Tell,” the brilliant documentary by Sarah Polley came and went in one week at the Ken cinemas. The film examines Polley’s intricate investigation into her biological origin. In the course of interviewing her family members she discovers that her biological father is not the man she and most of her family thought. The meticulous editing of the film approximates the circuitous mixture of evasion, denial, suspicion and truth which characterize her search. It’s a wonderful example of documentary film at its best. Get it on DVD.
a fascinating examination of the darker sides of human sexuality'Click to enlarge.
John Huston’s “Reflections in a Golden Eye” is another of his small films based on a work of literature – in this case the novel by Carson McCullers. Marlon Brando, a major, plays the role of a latent homosexual married to the harridan Elizabeth Taylor who is having an affair with another officer Brian Keith. Brando plays his role with great subtlety, and without the usual mannerisms. Taylor is in fine form as if carrying on the role of Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” The film is a fascinating examination of the darker sides of human sexuality.


Nyce taught literature and film at USD. He authored “Satyajit Ray” and “Scorsese Up Close.” Check with the Del Mar Library at 755-1666 for availability of films discussed in this column.



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