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BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Un-Rom-Un-Com; Before Next Time?
BEFORE MIDNIGHT ventures deeper into character drama and transcends the expectations of any genre. "A lot of times when you see married life," notes Hawke, "It's either some kind of cornball, whitewash thing where everybody's okay, or it's heavy drama, alcohol and stress, they secretly hate each other and it's either too white or too black. What's fun about this as a romance is that neither gender wins or loses -- most romances seem to have either a female agenda, where the guys are all dopes, or a masculine idea of what romantic love is supposed to look like, with Eva Mendes crawling across the floor in a bikini. What's so wonderful about these movies is they're kind of genderless. Julie's voice and her artistry are so powerful in the film. I guess what I'm trying to say is it's fun to make a romantic movie that I'm not ashamed to ask my male friends to go see."

None of the filmmaking principals are coy about whether the story of Celine and Jesse will wind on, because they seem sincerely not to know the answer. For one thing: "It's grueling," says Hawke. "They don't come easy and they always are worth it. It's difficult to write a movie as incredibly personal to three people, and the style of acting that Rick is going after is a little merciless because if it's ever noticeable that you're acting you've ruined the whole project."

Delpy too feels some dread: "It's not that we don't want to see each other or something, it's really because of how hard it is. It's like, you forget after nine years the pain, so it takes that long to forget the pain to go back through it."

"The audience feels like they know these people, and we start to feel we could let people down and invariably we will," says Hawke. "Each time we go further on down this path with these characters, people feel like they get to know them even better. So it's possible to betray that. It's so difficult for Rick, Julie and I to continue the story without the betraying our audience's interest and at the same time remaining absolutely authentic and truthful to who they are."

As the linchpin who may or may not call the collaboration back to life once more, Richard Linklater sees wide-open possibilities: "We'll just drift away from Jesse and Celine for now, let them keep talking, and then we'll see. We'll go out on an uncertain note... some people leave the movie and say, this is it, they've got irreconcilable differences here, and I give them less than a year. And then other people might think, you know they're going to make it, they're going to stick it out through thick and thin. Who knows?"

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