My review & pictures of “Before Midnight” Gala Screening Q&A at 2013 SXSW Film Festival

On Saturday, March 9, 2013 I attended a gala screening of Before Midnight at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. The sold out event took place in the historic 1200-seat Paramount Theatre. The film was a selection in the Festival Favorites section.

Richard Linklater founded the Austin Film Society in 1985 and serves as its Artistic Director, so it's only fitting that he brought his 17th feature film to his hometown festival. Before Midnight is the third in the trilogy that began with 1995's Before Sunrise and continued with Before Sunset in 2004. All three were collaborative efforts with stars Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy serving as co-writers on the projects. Hawke was only 23 when the first installment was shot, while Delpy was 24.

Now in their 40s, reprising their roles as Jesse and Celine, the trio revisit the magical relationship borne out of improvisation and a simple idea 18 years ago -- older, presumably wiser, and with a bigger budget to bring in a larger cast and shoot at more exotic locations, helping to create a much richer narrative than the initial "wandering through the streets of Vienna" that started it all. This one, set in the lush countryside of Greece, magnificently exceeded all expectations.

Let's get this out of the way right from the start -- you do not need to be a fan of the first two films, nor do you even have to have seen them, to appreciate Before Midnight. This exquisite character study is more than just two kids babbling away for hours into the night. For one thing, there's a brilliant supporting cast including Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior, Xenia Kalogeropoulou, Walter Lassally, Ariane Labed, Yannis Papadopoulos, and Athina Rachel Tsangari. To avoid spoilers I won't divulge the basic plot, but I will say this -- do not arrive late. When the lights go down clear your mind and focus on the screen. The opening sequence is absolutely critical to the rest of the movie. Before Midnight does not work emotionally if the viewer isn't engaged in those first few minutes. The prologue might even seem out of place. But it will all make sense once the story progresses.

This is one of those rare motion pictures that is destined to be a crowd-pleaser on every level. Not one person I spoke with who saw the film here at SXSW didn't have it among their favorites. It was one of a handful of titles I'd missed when I was at Sundance in January and, based on feedback, certainly regretted it. The film went on to similar acclaim at Berlin. But I was fortunate to have caught it here at its one and only screening at SXSW -- one which would not have happened at all if not for Linklater's connection to the city -- and it stands as one of the year's best films.

Editor Sandra Adair is back, having cut the first two films in the trilogy. Graham Reynolds was brought in to score the film and it was shot by cinematographer Christos Voudouris. Before Midnight was produced by Linklater for Detour Filmproduction along with Christos V. Konstantakopoulos and Sara Woodhatch for Faliro House. Executive Producers were Martin Shafer and Liz Glotze for Castle Rock Entertainment, Jacob Pechenik for Venture Forth, and John Sloss. Sony Pictures Classics has domestic theatrical distribution.

I gave Before Midnight five stars and a place on my 2013 SXSW Film Festival Top 8 Narratives.

Writer/director/producer Richard Linklater was brought onstage to introduce the film by SXSW Film Festival Producer Janet Pierson and Louis Black, co-founder of the SXSW Film Festival and Austin Chronicle. After the screening, Linklater returned to the stage for a fun and engaging Q&A session.

Here are some pictures I shot during the intro and Q&A:

INTRO AND Q&A GALLERY (45 photos on 3 pages)

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Author

Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at Larry411.com

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  • Author: Larry Richman
  • Posted: March 28, 2013
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