Monday, September 9, 2013

Before Midnight at Broadway Cinematheque

I recently went to see Before Midnight at Broadway Cinematheque in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon, a theater that I had heard pretty good things about previously.  
The theater is right next to Temple Street, which is probably the closest thing Hong Kong has to a night market.  The market consists of mostly cheap jewelry and fake goods, mixed in with the occasional sock shop or electronic stand, but really isn't worth much of your time.  I just loved that there were ample stands of fresh coconuts and sugar cane juice.
The theater definitely has an independent vibe to it.

 Blurbs about each of the movies line a wall.
 Vintage, international and obscure movie posters are on display everywhere.

There is a cool space for records and CDs.
There are all kinds of movie posters for sale.
They have a DVD lending library.  You have to be a member of Broadway Cinematheque to have borrowing access.
Some things don't change no matter where you are watching movies
And some things are quite different.  Movie theaters in Hong Kong have reserved seating.  They also have relatively small theaters.

Oh, and the movie itself?  The movie has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently and all of the positive reviews here and here and here ensured that I was going to watch this in the theater. 

There are certainly laudable points about Linklater's latest in his trilogy, tracing a couple from their first encounter to chance re-meeting to life together with children, in real time.  The second movie in the series, Before Sunset, had been filmed and produced nine years earlier (I am reeling from the fact that it was nine years ago. I vividly remember watching it in college...), and Before Sunrise, the first movie in the series, had been filmed and produced nine years prior to that. 

Disclaimer: no spoilers ahead, but you might not want to keep reading if you want to watch this movie.

Linklater's trademark long scenes of Jesse and Celine just speaking and interacting with each other during mundane tasks (driving a car, strolling a path, eating dinner) - joking, teasing, questing and responding- was instantly familiar from the previous two films, and deliciously unique in this day and age of nonsensical plot devices, terrible dialogue and special effects.  It's a lot of existential navel gazing though, so just be warned.

Now on to the negative things. 

First of all, there was waaaaay too much discussion about sex.  I understand that there is a myth about French women behaving like randy teenage boys, ready to have sex at the drop of a hat, but is this reality and should Hollywood exacerbate this stereotype? Is your average 40 year old French mother of little twin girls constantly thinking about sex and talking about blow jobs, orgasms, sex, penis size, copulating, and other unmentionables, ad nauseum?  Maybe, but I am doubtful. 

My other major peeve about the movie was how crazy hysterical they make Celine.  In one of the penultimate scenes of the movie, she jumps erratically from argument to argument, has multiple breakdowns, walks out repeatedly and returns.  The scene is ambiguous enough that there's room for debate as to who won the fight (and whether it's a Pyrrhic victory anyway), but I walked away from that scene thinking that Celine was an insane hormonal mess. Why can't Hollywood portray a woman who is just as good at, if not better than, a man when it comes to reasoning out her emotions and explaining her feelings?   Why can't she have the good lines?  Why can't Hollywood make a rational, sympathetic, independent, feminist woman?!  (By the way, this article really resonated with me - it's off topic here because the criticsms in that article do not apply to Celine's character in Before Midnight, but it relates in general to my many issues with how Hollywood addresses and presents women.)

Finally, a lot of the movie was just one big fight between the couple.  While the scenes may truly be representative of how, dredged in life's disappointments and failings and dusted off with cynicsm and bitterness, many couples emerge battle scarred and weary, the fact of the matter is that I want nothing more to do with this couple.  I appreciate that Linklater has courageously peeked behind the curtain to see what happens after the happily ever after, but I walked away from the film dazed and so grateful that I was able to walk away. 

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