'Before Midnight': Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke
'Before Midnight': Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke

"Before Midnight" isn’t just a chick flick, it’s a chick field-goal.  About half way through the third Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy love-hate-love fest, I found myself thinking two words: 'Shut up!  Stop talking!!  Shut the FUCK up!!!'  (Okay, that’s eight words, but if these words were to come out of the mouths of this film’s characters, there would be 76,992 more of them to express the same idea, with references to Aeschylus, Henry Miller and Zinedine Zidane along the way, not to mention a few blow jobs.)  Can a film be over-written and well-written at the same time?  "Before Midnight" can.  Can a film be over-smart, over-clever and way over-charming and still be highly watchable?  "Before Midnight" can (though cynics may suffer severe abdominal cramps). 

Can Julie Delpy be a "fat-assed 41-year-old mom" (her words) and still be highly desirable?  Why yes.  Can Ethan Hawke get a normal haircut?  Please? Hawke with bleach-blonded hair (gelled straight back with dark roots showing) looked like Puck in a Cirque du Soleil production.

I had these thoughts and more going into the Berlinale press conference with director Richard Linklater and the two stars, certainly the most enjoyable press conference of the festival. That’s not surprising, given the rapport these three have honed over 18 years of working together on "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" before "Before Midnight."

Why play the same characters again?

Ethan Hawke: It’s a really unique opportunity where you can...

Richard Linklater: We created these characters 18 years ago, and we realize they’re still alive in us every six years or so, and not only do we have now these longterm relationships with each other but Jesse and Celine have a longterm relationship. So we have a longterm creative relationship which is really fun and rewarding.

Julie Delpy: Revisiting these characters, I think we always try to...they’re in the present even though the stories evolve in time. So there’s an element of time in our lives as well, so its really unusual for actors and writers, or directors...  But each segment is in the moment but within this period of time, 18 years. A moment in time.

Will there be another one?

RL: We think after each film that we probably won’t do another.  But we’ll joke about it, maybe, and then at some point we become a little more serious.  We realize that Jesse and Celine are maybe trying to go, 'Hey, I’m at a new place in my life and you have to deal with it.' But who knows in the future.

EH: Every time I try to push Julie into doing a fullblown erotica film, that’s what I want to do, you know, where we really push the boundaries of cinema in a pornographic way. But Julie somehow doesn’t...

JD: I resist.

EH: We’ll try it again – at some point.

JD: Yeah, when I’m 80.

What is Ethan and Julie's relationship?

JD: It’s awful. Really.

EH: It’s kind of a mentor-student relationship [joke]. The truth is that when I met Julie – you know, Rick brought us together on 'Before Sunrise' – I’d never met somebody from my generation that was so knowledgeable, passionate and talented.  Even at 23, she’d already worked with Godard, Kieslowsky and Volker Schlondorff.  She was a very wise person at 23 and I certainly was not.  And I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up with her ever since.

JD: But now, of course...

EH: And now I’ve surpassed her.

Shooting in Greece?

RL: I meant to go to a few countries for scouting, but went to Greece first and that was it. I cancelled the rest of the trip.

How do you work on the dialogue together?

RL: We really don’t think there’s one perspective, it’s evenhanded between male and female, and that’s a constant negotiation for all of us. And it’s not like they represent only their characters. We all write all three parts. It’s a real collaboration in the best sense of the word.

JD: It’s not necessarily me writing all the feminist things. It’s really a collaborative work, it’s not like I’m the woman and they’re the guys.

RL: Yeah, it’s not like we’re fighting.

JD: But I always win.

RL: That’s a given. It’s a wonderful collaboration. We have the luxury of time, a couple of years to work through all the easy ideas, and dig a little deeper hopefully.

Why a happy ending?

RL: You think it’s a happy ending? I’m glad. Hopeful, perhaps.

EH: ...One of the things that was most difficult about the third one, is that people weren’t really expecting a sequel to 'Before Sunrise,' so no one had any agenda or opinion about what that film should be. But once it was announced that we were making this movie I saw that people were blogging online about what the movie should be. I haven’t met a film director over the past 9 years who didn’t tell me what he thought or she thought the third film should be. So we knew we were up against a lot of people having an agenda about where Jesse and Celine should be and that agenda is stifling. You know, because you would obviously like to make people happy. But what’s good about 'Before Sunrise' and 'Sunset' is that it’s something very personal to the three of us. And so we just decided to continue on that path, and write things that were meaningful to us.

JD: ...And true to what we wanted to write.

EH: ...And hope that a like-minded person might be invited in. there were so many diff possible scenarios that were discussed.  I’m working on a Brecht play right now so...Brecht had this notion that what you’re left with is the least-rejected idea.