The Before Trilogy Blu-ray Review
One of the most requested sets for Criterion has finally become a reality.
If you’ve been reading this site for several years, you’ll likely have noticed that I’m a big fan of director Richard Linklater. Not only do I think that he is one of the best filmmakers now or in any time period, but he’s also crafted some of my favorite films of the past several decades such as “Dazed And Confused,” “Boyhood,” and, my personal favorite “Before Sunrise.” With “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” shamefully not having a hi-def release previously, Criterion has finally given “Before Sunrise” and its follow-ups “Before Sunset,” and “Before Midnight” the Criterion treatment with a brand new box set.
When people mention great trilogies, “Star Wars,” “Back To The Future,” “Lord of the Rings” and “The Godfather” usually come to mind, but “The Before Trilogy” should also be in the conversation. While some film fans may be put off by the dialogue heavy ‘Before’ films, to me, the dialogue is one of the reasons this trilogy has drawn me in so much. In the first film (“Before Sunrise”), Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy create a deceptively simple story about a young man (Jesse) meeting a young woman (Céline) on a train. With time to kill before they go their separate ways, the two wander around Vienna and get to know one another. It may not sound cinematic on paper, but this blossoming romance that takes place over the course of one day is deeply moving. Not only is it the type of romantic film that makes you believe in love, but the sense of realism is what makes this movie (and this trilogy) so powerful. It feels like you are a fly-on-the-wall as you observe these two people at certain points in their lives. It’s a character study at its finest.
In “Before Sunset” (which was released 10 years later), Linklater checks back in with Jesse and Céline. We discover that Jesse is doing a book tour stop in Paris where he meets up with Céline. The two are leading their own lives now having never followed up on their romantic day. Will their past romance heat up again now that they have reconnected? That’s the question. Admittedly, this wasn’t the sequel I had envisioned going into seeing it 13 years ago, but that’s not a knock on the film. “Before Sunset” doesn’t go the expected route which is what makes it so surprising and rewarding. The last act in particular really sells this movie.
Having previously reviewed “Before Midnight” (link here: https://dvdcorner.net/2013/10/24/before-midnight-dvd-review/), I don’t want to retread my thoughts on it too much here. I will say that it is a great continuation of the series as it explores the strained and perhaps imploding relationship between Jesse and Céline. This is a much darker film than the previous two and, again, Linklater refreshingly goes a route you wouldn’t necessarily expect. With that said, I can only hope this isn’t the last we see of these characters as the ending once again leaves viewers with an intriguing open ended scene.
Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How do they look? The 2K digital transfers for the first 2 films and the 2k digital master for “Before Midnight” are positively exquisite. I was honestly blown away by the “Before Sunrise” transfer as it looked so clean and new. “Before Sunset” also boasts a crisp transfer while “Before Midnight,” of course, looks great as it is a recent release.
Audio Tracks: 2.0 DTS-HD MA for “Before Sunrise” and 5.1 DTS-HD MA for “Before Sunset” and “Before Midnight.” How do they sound? You wouldn’t know “Before Sunrise” has a 2.0 track as it has so much depth. I was hearing things I never heard on past releases. The ‘Sunset’ and ‘Midnight’ tracks are also layered and worthy of praise.
* A booklet featuring credits, photos, and a lengthy essay by author Dennis Lim.
* “The Space In Between”- A newly recorded 43 minute interview between film critic Kent Jones, Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke. This is a delightful wide ranging interview that touches upon the inspiration for “Before Sunrise,” how Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy were cast, their work, production stories, and a whole lot more.
* “3X2: A Conversation”- Authors Dave Johnson and Rob Stone chat about the content of the Before Trilogy, Linklater, their careers, and more. It’s basically just a geek out about Linklater’s work and there’s nothing wrong with that!
* “Behind The Scenes”- One segment for the first two films that shows film clips, archival interviews, and discussions about the story and characters.
* “Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny”- A feature length 2016 documentary about Richard Linklater’s career that contains interviews with those who worked with him, archival footage, press footage, behind-the-scenes footage, info about Linklater’s life etc. A must see for fans.
* “Linklater//On Cinema And Time”- An artsy video essay from :: kogonada which contains audio clips of Linklater.
* “After Before”- A great new 30 minute B&W documentary comprised of footage shot in Greece during the production of “Before Midnight.” This is the kind of extra that should have been on the original release.
* The not so exciting commentary with Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke from the original release. The other bonus features are so much more involving than this.
* “Love Darkens And Deepens”- A 2013 radio program titled “Fresh Air” which sees Terry Gross interviewing Linklater, Delpy and Hawke.
Overall Thoughts: If you love this trilogy or have yet to experience it, do yourself a favor and pick this set up. It is essential.
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