'For someone who teaches film history, I am regularly afflicted by doubts that such a thing actually exists. For my students, of course, anything that predates Star Wars is “old.” Go to Hollywood — where no film matters as much as the one coming out this Friday and no film exists that predates last week — and the amnesia only intensifies; you leave struggling to remember your own name, let alone Fellini’s, struck by the possibility that film history is but a collective figment of film buffs’ imagination. The mid-morning haze above LA reveals something about the medium, I think: its forgetfulness, its restlessness, its centrifugal push outward towards action, rather than inward toward recollection. Cinema is a present tense form, even it’s flashbacks swallowing us whole, like worm-holes, the past simply becoming the new present, until interrupted again, as Pulp Fiction showed us.
Then there is a film like Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the latest in a series of films that began with 1994’s Before Sunrise, in which an 23-year-old backpacker named Jessie (Ethan Hawke) managed to talk a beautiful French girl named Celine (Julie Delpy) into spending the day with walking around Vienna, talking, flirting, arguing, and falling in love. If asked to provide a list of great American achievements over the last twenty years, I would say “the election of Barack Obama in 2008”, “the iPhone,” and “the speech with which Jessie first talks Celine off the train in Before Sunrise.” It had something to do with time travellers, as I recall — tonally, a small miracle of foxy charm and open-hearted entreaty, whisked along by a Huck Finnish boulevardier spirit. It turned out to be enough to power an entire movie.
Make that three."