7:00 PM, 12th October, 2013
When Richard Linklater was in his early thirties he wrote, shot and released a film based in his hometown; Austin, Texas. The film was made for $23,000 and its international gross of 1.25 million, and acclaim at the Sundance film festival, assured the start of a promising new American director’s career. Slacker, as it was named, shadows over Linklater’s later films, like Clerks does for Kevin Smith, and its influence can be felt again in Before Midnight, the third instalment in Linklater’s Before series, and our third introduction to the two lovers – Jesse and Celine.
In Before Midnight Jesse and Celine are married, with two young children, and on holiday in Greece. It’s possible to watch the Before series as a sort of creative wish fulfilment on Linklater’s part, who devoted the series to Amy Lehrhaupt, a woman he met in a Philadelphia toyshop just after releasing Slacker, and with whom he spent a romantic evening before losing contact.
Lehrhraupt died in 1994 in a motorcycle accident, a random act of accidental violence that Linklater seems determined to re-write into a love story that, much like other tragic love stories, was never meant to be. With this in mind, Before Midnight becomes less another hard-nosed American indie romance but the heartbreaking eulogy of a man unwilling to admit that a one off meeting will, forever and ever, remain just that.
9:04 PM, 12th October, 2013
Song for Marion is a London-set comedic drama about a cantankerous pensioner, Arthur (Stamp), who is reluctantly motivated by his beloved wife Marion’s terminal illness to join the highly unconventional local choir which she was part of to help the group enter a national choir competition. At odds with his son James (Eccleston), Arthur must confront the undercurrents of his own grumbling persona as he embarks on a life-affirming journey of musical self-discovery.
This is another entry in the burgeoning sub-genre of ‘uplifting comedies about older people confronting death’, standing alongside great films such as Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Quartet and basically anything else Maggie Smith has done outside of “Downton Abbey” lately. This is a charming film, with some lovely musical set-pieces as the choir performs its unorthodox set list.
Vanessa Redgrave is wonderful as the titular Marion and her relationship with Arthur is the heart of the film. Gemma Arterton gives a sweet performance as charismatic choir director Elizabeth who is determined to persuade Arthur to embrace life. This is a moving film but it doesn’t exploit its characters in order to get you reaching for the tissues (but you should probably bring some just in case). One for lovers of bittersweet British comedies with quirky characters and real emotional pull.