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Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Last Generation: Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight"


The fixture of her eye has motion in’t,
As we are mock’d with art. — The Winter’s Tale
“Every generation believes they’re witnessing the end of the world,” says the revered writer Patrick (Walter Lassally) to the dinner guests of his Greek isle  summer house. He wearily undercuts the practicality of hindsight, saying, “But I feel that I’m actually living it.” But the new Vesuvius eruption is more abstract than viscerally cataclysmic. The world that’s changing is the notion of what is human, and how they relate to each other.
Before Midnight
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in "Before Midnight"
This eschatological thought is from probably the central conversation of Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the third film in the trilogy that began with 1995′s Before Sunrise and 2004′s Before Sunset. This pivotal section is the moment when the series opens well up beyond its principle characters of American writer Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and the more jaded but politically activated Celine (Julie Delpy), the twenty-something lovers who met on a Vienna train in 1994 and had a one night stand, and met nine years later in Paris, disappointed with where their lives had drifted, dreaming of each other (Jesse writing a book of that Vienna one night stand, Celine a song) while attached to other partners.  Now, on the precipice of middle age, we see that Jesse and Celine have long been committed to each other — though remain unmarried — with a pair of twin girls, living in Paris, and struggling to make time for Jesse’s son from his failed marriage, Hank (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick). On holiday, the couple again reflects on romance and existence. The ideal consummated in a long term relationship, they’re no longer the only two people in the world, as it were, and the fulfillment of longing brings no finality to regret and uncertainty. We’re with them. A generation of moviegoers has grown up with Jesse and Celine, and Before Midnight reminds us how the world — romantically, existentially, technologically, cinematically — moves on without us, a thought that is both simple and horrifying.
Though driven by dialogue and the pretense of ideas, these three films all transcend any limitations of scope by the rich undercurrents suggested by those ideas, particularly how one Self relates to their surroundings, which Linklater has explored from his entry to the public eye, himself playing a philosophical dreamer wondering about the matrix of life paths in the opening moments of his first film, Slacker (1991). Before Sunrise was marked by its carpe diem longing and wistfulness, hopeful romance in seizing hold of an opportunity with another before time runs out. Before Sunsetponders the regret associated with such passion — the exuberant recklessness of reaching out for a beautiful stranger and connecting has haunted these two, the romantic getaway of the one-who-got-away festering over “Real Life,” real long term relationships, children, and responsibilities: “Forget me not” has the flip side of, as Celine says, “I didn’t forget you — and it pisses me off.”
Well — now they are together, they have children, they’re on vacation. But, as Celine notes while looking at Grecian ruins, the world is (still) fucked. The two attractive youngsters, Delpy making her initial mark for the great cinematic iconoclast Godard and Hawke who was encouraged to “seize the day” by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society (soon taking it easy as the era’s definitive slacker in 1994′s Reality Bites), are visibly aging, in form and in spirit. Young romantics yearning to take a leap of faith may have fallen in love with Before Sunrise in the post-grunge 1990s, Gen X’s postmodern awareness encapsulating a historical notion of consilience through its abundance of recorded images and references so as to master the flaws of previous and less enlightened generations, but satisfaction is less a tangible thing than something consecrated in stone or a memoir. As the movie continues after the credits, the characters continue to struggle. Life changes around them, and consecrated experiences eventually undergo abuse, like the chapel of St. Odile, patron saint of eyesight, whose shrine is visited by Jesse and Celine in Before Midnight, the iconographic faces having their eyes crossed out, probably by Turkish conquerers. Illumination is no guarantee of progress or finality.
Before Sunrise
Seizing the day: "Before Sunrise" (1995)
In an era when the End of the World is a conceptual interest to filmmakers — The Tree of Life, Melancholia, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, The Road, all things Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, Southland Tales, The Box),Collapse, Children of Men4:44, Herzog’s documentaries Encounters at the End of the World and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the hilarious 2012, so many superhero films, the Walking Dead series, and the recent all-star comedy This is the End, plus so many more — I don’t think the sense of “the end” has hit me more palpably and with such force than with the comparably subtle Before Midnight. It’s not a devastating apocalypse or rain of fire, but the aging writer’s acknowledgment of “the end” more relates to a current generation’s anxiety with an oncoming “Post-Human” condition, a new sensibility altering the steady and romantic new religion of Humanism some have struggled to erect. Sometimes I feel like one of the Elves in The Lord of the Rings, moving on and away in a world that’s turned upside down for me.  A new system of virtual romance and sexuality, suggested at the dinner table, humiliates the cherished notions Jesse and Celine have embodied, for themselves as characters and for us as moviegoers. The kind of Hegelian “completion” of romantic love is something the younger couple, beautiful actress Anna (Ariane Labed) and her boyfriend Achilleas (Yiannis Papadopoulos), realizes is preposterous, impractical, and out-dated: they casually remark how their heated relationship will end and life will go on. It’s liberating, but also relates amorous feelings to mortal ones. Time matters, Linklater understands, and while Anna and Achilleas are probably more wise than Celine and Jesse at the same age, it’s worth wondering if they have any sense that they will get old, as the information bomb of virtual efficiency keeps them fixed, without any temporal context beyond Right Now.
The Grecian setting matters not only for the ruins accentuating the sense of erosion in time, but because we understand that this country is a hotbed of heated political unrest, a beautiful vacation spot that could erupt in a revolution at any moment, much like the Vesuvius volcano that swallowed Pompeii and held victims in the grapple of permanent death. The flash-heated bodies of solid ash, who experienced what was to them the end of the world, were a central aspect of Roberto Rossellini’s Viaggo in Italia, another film about a strained relationship which, in this film, Celine half-remembers seeing as a child. Under the inevitable cloud of death there’s a tension of independence and union, shrewdness and empathy, selfishness and compassion. Invoking Skype, Facebook, and smart phones, Before Midnight shows how the world has changed since 1994, when a long-distance couple like Celine and Jesse couldn’t have thrived because of the necessities of recognizing the physics of spatial relationships between people, even as the technologies that surround us presently were thriving in a healthy infancy. The ash bodies of Pompeii desperately held each other close in those final moments (“Life is so short,” Ingrid Bergman says while looking at the bodies inViaggo in Italia), even though one body self must differentiate itself from others. “Know thyself,” the writer Patrick recalls the Delphi oracle at the Temple of Apollo. But, Jesse asks, how do we know ourselves when so much of who we are is automated anyway? Is the Self an illusion of free will, without a need to seek out silly concepts like completion or a “soul mate” in an Other?  “The future of humanity” means the possibility of selfishly fulfilling corporeal and carnal pleasures, like the lab rats Celine recalls, who would rather have constant orgasms than food.
Before Sunset
The burden of memory: "Before Sunset" (2004)
That last point is applicable to where the movies seem to be goingthe Before trilogy being the ultimate anachronism in franchise films (probably the lowest grossing mainstream franchise in history) when an imploding system swerves away from hard-copy economics to virtual efficiency and streaming exhibition, its profit margins diminishing and forcing studios to take fewer risks with substance while amping more money in carpet-bomb marketing and escapist, high-voltage non-stop stimulating aesthetics where the content has minimal ambiguity, character, dissatisfaction, and strangeness: in a time of uncertainty, economic and romantic, the only thing that seems fixed, so tweets critic Guy Lodge, are super-hero sequels.
This goes beyond content and more so applies to form. Gradually, summer studio blockbusters have shifted away from any relationship with real environments in favor for the weightless, if 3D, surfaces of computer generated animation. The trickery of the camera eye lying 24 times a second has become technological wizardry. By contrast, Linklater’s film is abundant with seemingly endless takes, the camera following its subjects for over 10 minutes in one case. It’s a technique that not only sutures anxiety into the story, the viewer’s cinematic unconscious thirsty for a cut so as to blink or breathe, just as these characters are stuck with their emotions and sometimes ill-chosen words that alter existence from one second to the next, but it also seems in line with a longing so specific to the visual and aural medium of film, where time is luck, time is precious, and the filmmaker desperately clings to passing moments, refusing to let the physics go. By contrast, the ultra-sensory filmmaking of Man of Steel or Iron Man 3 or even a drama like The Great Gatsby, whether they are good films or mediocre, have let the ramifications of space and time go. Hollywood has embraced the unbearable lightness of the new. Its spectacle sells itself and is the cinema’s way of competing with television and video games, which continue to boom as the private living room with its ready-made subscription services replaces the public sanctuary of the theater.
Alluding to Milan Kundera’s 1984 novel seems fitting because the heaviness that plagued Jesse and Celine in the past now rolls over to a contagion of lightness in relationships, for better or worse. Skype and Facebook can allow young Hank (whom we hear had his own summer romance before flying back to America) or Anna and Achilleas to carry on a friendship or relationship, where two people simulate sleeping together by falling asleep with open laptops on their pillow.  Another dinner guest, the middle-aged Stefanos (Panos Koronis), an affable man who appears to be very happily married with the equally playful Ariadne (Athina Rachel Tsangari), admits, “Sex of the near future…is going to be just like plugging in, attaching something to your genitals, and you’ll be having virtual intercourse with anyone of your choice. You’ll be able to program in all of your preferences. You’ll be able to type in exactly what you want.” Celine, perhaps mocking Jesse’s romanticism, jokes that she likes that idea. But there’s a graver and melancholic implication. The chess master Kasparov is mentioned, who eventually was bested by Big Blue. The machine would seem to “lack that ineffable human element,” but it’s coming to a stage when the humans can’t compete. In the supplication of orgasms or movie special effects (could Francis Ford Coppola be allowed — or would he even consider – the live-action helicopter attack from Apocalypse Now in 2013? Would Regan in William Friedkin’sThe Exorcist be the construct of an actress and special makeup effects, or would he be pressured to defer to computer efficiency?), that “human element” existing on a plane of real time and space is losing out, its downward spiral ineluctable as much as “privacy” is in a world of increasing social networking and surveillance. Lightness in sex and love and economics and politics and cinema, without the weight of commitment to people, space, and time constraints, is not a temptation but a mandatory expectation.
Before Midnight
Back to the future: "Before Midnight"
In love or economics or cinema, which could all well relate to one another, it’s difficult to make a judgment without sounding appearing somewhat pedantic and old fashioned. Categories are being redefined and a post-modern atmosphere of interpretation opens up everything, especially ethics, to revision. Increasing technological progress and knowledge has given us, according to Steven Pinker, the least violent period in our short history. But altruism, charity, and compassion remain specialized and diminishing tastes. After the 2008 economic collapse, Ayn Rand became insanely more popular. Celebrity culture engenders more vanity and narcissism. Bigger box office doesn’t only matter, but immediate first day box office carries with it a film’s lasting legacy, and tabloid stories about a film’s actors are more significant than the film’s (or performance’s) substance (for example, in 1993 Winona Ryder’s performance as May Welland in The Age of Innocence was universally praised and rewarded, for good reason; the social modern-day perception of Ryder has tainted the memory, becoming fodder for lame Family Guy jokes), a point vibrantly essential to Sofia Coppola’s new, and I think angry, film The Bling Ring.  In Before Midnight, the once idealistic activist Celine is done being a do-gooder, and sees the light in lucrative opportunities, eager to take on a high-paying government position even though she dislikes the man for whom she’ll be working. “The world is fucked,” she says, giving up on idealism. This is not at all to say that she’s wrong in seeking a good job offer (Jesse’s protestation, decrying how this new boss only represents “ambition,” points to something may be just as much petty resentment as it is a disdain for capitalism and greed), as there’s practicality and reason in the self-reliance success affords: why the hell not? She deserves it, and in this family she is self-identified as “the general,” whereas Jesse is stuck in his literary thoughts. With accomplishment, pleasure, leisure, and individuality are granted, along with liberation and freedom. At the Greek dinner, Anna and Achilleas accept an eventual severance, which both of their parents either had or would have hadcould they afford it. Meanwhile, the gracious flux of technological interactivity and practicality — superseding the Gen X matrix of immediate hindsight — dismisses tired concepts like “romantic love,” or a “soul-mate” who will “save us from loneliness.”  In the digital/virtual prism, there is no distance between individuals, and there no longer is “time.” Though the aging writer is conciliatory with the young couple, saying that he and his late wife “were never one person, always two, and we preferred it that way,” and that “it’s not the love of one other person that matters, it’s the love of life,” there’s an uneasy feeling of luxurious solipsism, assuming you can afford it along with the adequate technology.  Indeed, the big impediment for Celine accepting this new position is her relationship with Jesse. With so many opportunities in a global landscape, how is a monogamous “forever” relationship feasible? Celine herself sees the End as she mentions her prospect and Jesse intimates moving to Chicago to be closer to Hank: he’s headed West, she’s headed East. This is how things fall apart. And being that everyone’s free to pursue their passions, shouldn’t it be so?
Meekly countering these insights is the elder woman at the table, Natalia (Xenia Kalogeropoulou),who did feel complete with her husband. When he used to lie next to her, she “felt safe. Complete. Lately, I’ve been forgetting little things. He’s sort of fading and I’m starting to forget him. It’s like losing him again. So sometimes I make myself remember every detail of his face. Sometimes I can actually see him. But then — the real world rushes in and he vanishes again. Like sunlight, sunset, we appear, we disappear. We are so important to some, but we are just passing through.”  The woman’s touching speech is sort of patronized by Jesse, who raises his glass and says, “To passing through” (he can’t witness anything poignant without consecrating it through ritual), but its sentiment captures the precious longing in Linklater’s cinema, or an idea of cinema generally: the futile yet beautiful pursuit of permanence, which was once captured in explosions of photochemical idiosyncrasies, and now is the reprojected data of binary units. The slackers and dreamers, who in their twenties thought they were doing so many important things (Celine as activist, Jesse as writer), wander around through ruins and interrogate each other by setting expectations of the present against the past (would you get off a train with me today?), Jesse sometimes wearing a record store shirt, denoting a dead method of recording sound, while Celine’s smart-phone has the outward appearance of the similarly extinct analog cassette tape. From these environs, Socratic philosophers debated the value of memory vs. recorded writing (and the Before films play so much like a series of Socratic dialogues), Socrates himself signaling writing as the beginning of forgetfulness. But the impulse in witnessing an important  sound or thought or image is to transmute it through recording it (on paper, on vinyl, tape, film), owning time like love gives way to, as one character implies, colonizing the beloved, maybe a present day wedding ring being to love what a film is to fragments of time.  But it can never be fully owned, colonized, possessed, etc. The old woman’s frustration with the phantom of her late husband, vividly remembering him just as he becomes vague and blurry, is a paradox of memory. As a character remarks in Sarah Polley’s investigation into her parents’ love lives, Stories We Tell, love is short while forgetting is long.
*
Before Midnight‘s anxiety about past and future hinges on the impact parents have on children.  This plays out with humor in the early car ride, Jesse and Celine’s twin daughters sleeping in the backseat and missing out on the Greek ruins. Jesse eats one of their apples and Celine snaps a picture of it, to prove how he took food out of the mouth of his children. But Jesse is wondering about Hank. “It’s a crucial time for him,” he says, wishing that he was there to be the guiding light his own father never was. When it comes to throwing a baseball, “a father is supposed to teach you.”
Before Midnight
The film’s first scene, with Jesse saying good-bye to Hank at the airport, shows the disconnect between generations, Jesse’s questions of concern given one-to-three word answers.  We gather Hank plays piano and has important recitals. He used to play team sports like soccer but, believing he’s not that good, might give up. “Team sports are important,” Jesse stresses. But Hank doesn’t care. When Jesse mentions visiting later in the fall to see a piano recital, Hank is irritated. He doesn’t want his father there, because it would bring a lot of tension into the environment considering how much Hank’s mom hates Jesse (though we gather she might hate her new husband more). While Jesse wants to be there for the classically important moments in a child’s upbringing, Hank just wants to spend leisure time with his dad. This might be something that Jesse doesn’t understand, in parenting or in life generally. Everything is a ritual for him, and Linklaterian slacker that he is, his moments at St. Odile’s chapel, in addition to his wine toasts (“I don’t want this meal to go by without just saying ‘thank you’ to everyone”), denotes an impossibility to “just be,” to let time go leisurely without sanctifying it.  As a film character, Jesse has always embodied “carpe diem” but still things slip away from him, as we see in one of the most moving shots I’ve seen in any film of recent years when we watch him watching Hank solitarily disappear into the airport’s halls of electronic efficiency and security.
Jesse was given an impossible riddle through time: pursuing and attaining the one that got away, Celine, and letting go of an unhappy marriage when he already had a child, whom he loves very much. There was no way to ensure anyone’s happiness in the scenario in which he found himself. He could go back to America, where he would be able to see Hank every other week instead of every few months — something we understand, along with Celine, isn’t worth it. The book’s been written and can’t be revised — and maybe worst of all, he made it a “book” in the first place.
Jesse and Celine’s romance was put into print by Jesse as two novels, This Time (which is basically Before Sunrise) and That Time (Before Sunset), where the latter film’s ambiguous ending is explained for us as the two of them making love for days. (His unease with time continued with a longer and more ambitious third novel, Temporary Cast Members of a Long Running But Little Seen Production of a Play Called ‘Fleeting’). This means reducing Celine to a character, the projection of his fictional representation of reality. Creative as he is, and as conciliatory as he is during many of the couple’s arguments, Jesse struggles imagining the reality beyond his bubble of sight. Everything is not only sanctified, but aestheticized — a play, a novel, a story, a myth, which is the romantic’s foil: “This place is full of thousands of years of myth and tragedy, and I thought something tragic was going to happen,” is said, as if with disappointment. As Jesse’s work-in-progress indicates, perception is a bigger problem than time: his characters include an old woman in a perpetual state of deja vu; a man who can’t recognize faces alongside a woman who can remember vividly every face she’s ever seen; and a young man who only sees the transient nature of everything: he sees a beautiful lake and then only senses the dry fossil bed there in the future. The characters are linked through various time periods (1954, 1979, 1993) by the film On the Waterfront, a picture (which through film studies and Elia Kazan retrospectives, is constantly reevaluated) about a man whose chance came and went.
Before Midnight
Framing his story: Ethan Hawke
Life is written and presented for Jesse (he even reads books in his dreams), made concrete, whereas for Celine it’s more ephemeral and abstract (in her dreams, she flies around like a super-hero; she’s like the air). The horrible mother Medea, equated with Hank’s biological mother, is a myth for Celine but is Euripides’ play for Jesse, something authored and performed to script. But he’s wrong — the more generalized myth of Medea predated Euripides. In the chapel we also feel that Jesse would feel more comfortably if the two of them were married, while Celine — who’s been lying to her family about them being married — is more content to be legally single. The relationship is harder to pin down for her, and she is resistant to signing a copy of Jesse’s book for his fans, who connect her with his autobiographical heroine. “It’s me, but it’s not me at all,” she says to Jesse’s readers, a couple who connect their own relationship to the novel’s characters. “Women explore for eternity,” she says, while Jesse wants to lean on permanence and something solid.  When Celine righteously voices her indignation, he says, “The Nobel committee is taking note,” meaning that any gesture or thought is complemented with a plaque or award. Meanwhile, her way of getting on Jesse’s good side is to play a role – in particular, and quite humorously, a bimbo, an affectation she demonstrates for Patrick’s dinner guests to great amusement and then, I think something of which we should take note, during the film’s closing moments, when we think we’re safely wrapped in a happy and safe ending.
The film’s most painful section transpires in a hotel room, where Jesse and Celine have accepted a gift of spending a night together along with free wine and a massage. Jesse has sex on his mind (himself playing the role of a Spanish — or Greek — lover), while Celine misses the girls. The inability to relax with each other connects to how change is a constant issue. “All the red in your hair is gone,” she says to him, the red being something she found very attractive. “You’re not going to tell me that love is dependent on pigment, are you?” he replies. Ideal love, never relaxing, gives way to endless projection of how I see you and you see me. Would the 41-year-old Jesse ask Celine at the same age to get off a train with him? He says he would, and I believe him when he says that it was the best thing he ever did, butright now, his wandering and sad eyes indicate that he’s miffed on what he’s missing out on: we saw him look attentively at Anna’s luscious 20-something body earlier, and it’s basically validated that he had a quick affair while on a book tour. Celine could herself be so far ahead in life without the pressures of this relationship, with someone more successful and accommodating. Jesse’s insecurities are revealed in his certainty that Celine gave former Soviet leaders blow-jobs, which are probably the result of his own transference of guilt.
The scene is a collision of masculine and feminine, his approach being conciliatory if condescending, a degree of rationality that leads her to press all the right buttons for his undoing — specifically, mentioning how he’s “no Henry Miller, on any level.”  The way we take our own sides in this scene could waver back and forth, because their flaws both are nakedly flapping before us. The slight against Jesse’s sexuality and artistic talent is unnecessary and makes me more sympathetic to him. She wants to stir things up. He sees anger and sees something negative (“the perpetually discontented” human state), while she sees great things in their children fighting.  But maybe her motives are in the right place. Jesse has become a colonizer in this relationship. He lives in France but doesn’t speak a word of French (less so than in the previous two films, when he was a tourist and not a resident) while Celine and the children speak good English (with his occasional correctives). He’s presumptive that she would go along with his plan to move to America and abandon her occupational ambition. Jesse, the writer, can only see the narrative, the script and words, the documentary and film. Celine arouses the volcanic and unpredictable chaos swirling around the words chosen to document memory and reality. “This world has been fucked by rational men,” she says, bringing up Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the Final Solution.
Before Midnight
It feels very close to Stanley Kubrick’s remarkable Eyes Wide Shut, when sexual arousal and deep arguments waver finely together like the crimson reds and deep blues of the color scheme. The woman obliterates the man’s certainty and calm with something very self-evident to which he’s been selectively blind. Throughout his own psychological odyssey, at the conclusion he still wants the reassurance of “forever,” which the woman can’t give him. It’s a word that frightens her. Before Midnight doesn’t indicate the same kind of illumination Kubrick’s couple may have. Jesse continues to play a role, this time as a man from the future sent by Celine’s elderly self to go back with that boy she first met on a train. It’s sweet and funny, but note how Jesse is still resolutely writing his version of Celine, even if it’s an 80-year-old incarnation. And though he may get the satisfaction of sex and togetherness at the conclusion, she has to defeat him before she gives in. Jesse has to stretch out his story to absurd lengths, realize its stupidity, and then say, “I give up” before the fascinated naive girl comes back to play.  Linklater pulls back and the two are once again affable, playing roles, forgetful or running from the confusion of the last 24 hours. It’s neither happy or sad, but it is fiction, emblematic of the illusory nature of this kind of idealized love.  He’s selfish and she’s “the mayor of fucking Crazy Town,” and even though the world is moving on and away from Jesse and Celine, they’re not ready to yet drift apart.
It then comes back to us. The Before trilogy has overstepped big budget franchise competition in becoming the first truly interactive experience for the generation that grew up with videogames — and for whom movies, at least as we knew them, threaten to go extinct.  As much time has passed between now and the release of Linklater’s Dazed and Confused as that film’s documented time of the mid-1970s and its realization.  Here he pays reference to The Winter’s Tale, the young beauty Anna having played Perdita, a character who grew through 16 years believing she was one person — through the fault of her father — and then realized she was someone else; Shakespeare likewise features the Delphic oracle, that bestower of the wisdom to “Know thyself,” and like Jesse, the king Leontes is unable to see anything beyond his own self.  So it is with me. My memories of Before Sunrise in 1995, conjoined with fanciful projections with this couple who predate my first long term romantic relationship by a few years, are always shifting, along with Before Sunset and now Before Midnight (I think I nowadays most readily identify with the 30-something Celine from Sunset). In the last year I’ve been fortunate to have very significant reconnections with some treasured partners, seeing how we’ve moved on and in other ways haven’t. Linklater draws awareness to the implications of time and vectors of movement, and to the ongoing trajectory of emotional connections along with lapses or silences: Jesus, the things we’ve seen. Like Moonrise Kingdom last year, Before Midnight so greatly affected me that I required long periods of walking and wonder afterward.
Before Midnight
Some frustrations of my recent moviegoing experiences connect to how several (not all) spectacles go through me like a bag of prunes: loudly and, ahem, explosively, leaving me empty inside — two hours in a Thunderdome disconnected from everything else; life is forgotten, and so is the film. Everything is numbed. Before Midnight brings me back to the curves and reservoirs of my life and memories. We see how Viaggo in Italia and On the Waterfront figure into characters’ lives (or the lives of characters who are the inventions of characters), as Linklater’s trilogy does with us, expressing that sentiment in that moment from Citizen Kane, where the aged Bernstein says how a day hasn’t gone without remembering a girl with a parasol he spotted as a young man. Cinema is in dialogue — often selfishly, sadly, and in disagreement — with life, and not apart from it, like the statue coming to life in The Winter’s Tale. Moments are set against other moments, and people project onto other people, for better and for worse. It’s all commensurately valuable and heartbreaking, maybe the paradoxical bargain of both movie love and people love. When all things are predisposed to change and decay, I don’t know if the pain’s worth it, yet what would life be but listless automation of an endless series of satisfactory Now moments were it otherwise?

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