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18 years have passed since American Jesse and Frenchwoman Céline met on a trans-European train and fell in love while wandering the streets of Vienna. Jesse wrote a novel based on the experience which became a US bestseller and led him to meet Céline again after an interval of almost a decade, where the spark of their initial encounter was still present. The film finds the pair living as a couple in Paris, proud parents to two young girls. However, their lives are far from perfect. Frustrated at her inability to match Jesse's professional success, Céline is considering a change in career. Jesse, meanwhile, is struggling to connect with his teenage son Hank, who is visiting from Chicago for the summer.
For more about Before Midnight and the Before Midnight Blu-ray release, see Before Midnight Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 18, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
Director: Richard Linklater
» See full cast & crew
Before Midnight Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 18, 2013
Just when feels like cinema has become nothing more than a digital artist's playground and a home for the display of dazzling, cutting-edge computer graphics built around the occasional human prop, a movie like Before Midnight appears to remind audiences of what truly dramatic cinema can accomplish, the sort of feeling it can engender, the sort of authentic experience it can provide. Those big Transformers sort of movies certainly get all the buzz, enjoy all the advertising dollars, and sell a boatload of tickets on multiple screen across every cineplex around the country, and that's all before the inevitable glowing A/V Blu-ray reviews and playing on loop in showrooms eager to display only the finest in picture and sound content. Look everywhere, and there are those movies. Make it through the fog, however, and rediscover the magic of moviemaking as a more intimate medium, one that has the power to truly dig deeply into the very essence of its characters and paint them not just vividly, but realistically, and so realistically that the mere act of watching can become a rather unsettling experience. But the payoff is that unsettling feeling that arises when a movie crosses the boundary of a distant representation of life and becomes life. Director Richard Linklater has founds tremendous success in that endeavor with his Before films, films about life, love, and the journey through both. Before Midnight follows the same characters and continues the same journey begun in Before Sunrise and then furthered in Before Sunset. This is a beautiful film, certainly not for every audience but a fully rewarding experience and a reminder of what cinema can be away from the noise and the hype of the bigger, though so often not better, pictures.
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) is an accomplished writer who is saying his goodbyes to his young son Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) after a summer together in Greece. After seeing him off at the airport, he returns to Céline (Julie Delpy) and their twin daughters for a trip to visit friends in the countryside. As they travel, they discuss their lives and love, including Céline's new job opportunity in France and Jesse's desire to move them to Chicago. It becomes clear that their relationship has hit a speed bump when Céline hints that it may be winding down. Nevertheless, the couple happily engages in both superficial banter and emotionally deeper discussion (the former often masquerading as the latter) with their friends and with one another, even as their relationship appears to be headed towards a dangerous crossroads.
There's something almost surreal about the way Before Midnight so effortlessly brings the Jesse-Céline relationship to life. While it's all predicated on the previous two films, the characters come across as so well established and authentic that the details of their past life emerge as this story takes shape, not just on the surface, which they do, but underneath, in the characters' tone, the way they look at one another, through their word selection, through all variety if mannerisms that reveal the history, present, and future direction of the relationship. Hawke and Delpy don't perform the characters. Rather, they inhabit them, transform them not so much into extraordinary characters but certainly extraordinarily realized characters. The film is comprised, primarily, of several lengthy dialogue stretches, the first in a car, the second around the table with a few friends, the third in a hotel room. There are some shorter connective scenes in between, but these three construct the bulk of the material. Rarely does a film capture such real life, such connective authenticity as this; those three segments are remarkable in how genuine they feel, how natural the dialogue flows, how finely tuned the performances seem. Before Midnight might be the most realistically believable movie in some time. It's an experience quite unlike most others to be sure.
Before Midnight takes the setup of a stage play sort of structure -- there's an ebb and flow to the narrative but not much variety in terms of where the action takes place or in the breadth of characters involved -- but leaves behind the stage play sort of feel and instead plays almost like cinema voyeurism considering the lifelike authenticity of the performances. In a way, it feels like a cross between Carnage and A Separation with a hint of a slightly less fantastical, magical, bouncy Woody Allen vibe. Richard Linklater merely observes with the camera; beyond basic technical polish the picture strives for nothing more than to capture the moment for the audience. It's a film built completely on its story and the cast's telling of it. It's a testament to the quality of the acting and the integrity of the story that it holds up so well and commands the audience's attention so fully, particularly in an era of dumbed-down story lines, vacuous characters, and mindless plot contrivances. Real life -- no matter how difficult it may sometimes be to watch -- again proves to be the best dramatic foundation, and in the capable hands of an expert filmmaker and dedicated cast, its depiction in cinema just doesn't get any better.
Before Midnight Blu-ray, Video Quality
Before Midnight looks terrific on Blu-ray. Sony's 1080p, 1.78:1-framed image sourced from a high end HD video shoot yields spectacular results all around. Image clarity excels, revealing the clean but nearly film-like picture in all its textural and colorful glory. Facial lines and intimate skin details pass for lifelike in every close-up shot. Clothing textures are superb, with particular praise for the light blue and slightly worn shirt Jesse wears later in the film. Greek countryside shots look fabulous, right down to pebbly terrain, grasses, and wearing building façades. Colors are naturally vibrant and even. Nothing's pale, nothing's garish. Instead, there's a beautifully natural appearance to every shade. Flesh tones are accurate across the board, and black levels are true. The only minor issue comes in the form of light aliasing on Céline's blue-and-white checkered dress. Otherwise, this is a top-level transfer from top to bottom.
Before Midnight Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Before Midnight features a straightforward, no-frills sort of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Despite the relative lack of activity, whats here is presented very nicely and cleanly and robust when necessary. Music, often light and airy, enjoys natural stage placement and flow, including a wide front, a strong supportive rear, and a positive low end support. Light atmospherics are handled nicely, whether the low rumble of a vehicle or minor countryside ambience. Dialogue plays clearly, evenly, and intelligibly from the center. This is a basic track, but it's basic done very well.
Before Midnight Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Before Midnight contains the following supplements:
Before Midnight Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Before Midnight is a special motion picture experience that hearkens back to a simpler time of filmmaking, updated here only with contemporary characters. It's motion picture simplicity and character complexity, both extraordinarily well done. The performances are flawless, the story is at times difficult but certainly riveting in a "real life" sort of way, and the direction is reserved but fully capable. This isn't a movie for all audiences -- there are no explosions, no big robots, no animated characters -- but those who appreciate refined, realistic cinema, there are only precious few other films that get it as right as this one. Sony's Blu-ray release of Before Midnight enjoys top-end picture and sound qualities. A few quality extras are included. Very highly recommended.
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Before Midnight Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: October 22-29 - October 19, 2013
For the week of October 22nd, Sony Home Entertainment is bringing Before Midnight to Blu-ray. Other titles include Warner and New Line's The Conjuring, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive follow-up Only God Forgives, the coming-of-age dramedy The Way Way Back, Lewis Allen's ...
• Sony to Release Richard Linklater's Before Midnight (Updated) - September 3, 2013
Sony Pictures will bring to Blu-ray director Richard Linklater's highly anticipated romantic comedy Before Midnight (2013), starring Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the ...
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