The Criterion Collection presents the Before Sunsetóthe second film in Richard Linklaterís Before Trilogy and available exclusively in Criterionís box setóon Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new 2K restoration comes from a scan of the 35mm interpositive.
Though they contain some great scenery I canít say the Before Trilogy is built off of fancy camera work or imaginative editng: despite some shots and edits to maybe cut through the sameness of a lot of scenes the films typically follow around two characters with steadicams as they talk. But having said that Before Sunset still goes for a very different look in comparison to the other two films and itís rendered wonderfully for this high-def release.
This is the shortest of the three films, running only 80-minutes with credits, and it unravels in real time just before (as the title clearly suggests without any risk of misinterpretation) sunset. To fit this time period the film makes fairly decent use of warmer colours like oranges and such, and everything within the film seems to have this subtle glow around it. Like the presentation for the first it doesnít have the sharpest ďhigh-definitionĒ look, as this subtle glow that shows up seems to limit the finer details a smidge, but Iíd still say details are good, textures are nice, and there is still a terrific sense of depth to a lot of the scenes.
What is most important, though, is the overall cleanliness and stability of the image through the digital presentation, and I canít fault that area at all here. The film is short and because of that it receives a lot of breathing space on the disc, which certainly helps it here. It looks very film-like, rendering grain structure superbly without a hint of digital noise or compression popping up. Colours look gorgeous with excellent saturation and no signs of bleeding or blooming. Black levels are inky and rich, crushing not appearing to be a problem.
Not surprisingly, especially for what is a newer film in the grand scheme of things, restoration work has been thorough and there isnít a blemish of note throughout the filmís running time.
Everything comes off looking very good and the presentation looks very much like a projected film. 9/10
All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.
Criterionís box set The Before Trilogy presents all three of Richard Linklaterís filmsóBefore Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnightótogether for the first time. Each film receives their own dual-layer disc and the features are spread across all of them. Though the third film might receive more attention the features otherwise donít really look at the individual films themselves, instead going over the trilogy as a whole. Because of this the features for the set seem slim and not impressive, especially for what is a fairly big release for Criterion, and theyíre even less impressive when you break it down to the individual titles. For this review I am focusing specifically on the features available on the disc for Before Sunset.
(As a note, if you have not seen any or all of these films previously, it is highly recommended to go through all of the films in the set first before visiting any of the special features as they will contain spoilers.)
There are a couple of significant supplements on this disc, though of the three discs this one offers the weakest collection, the average brought down a bit by one feature on here. This disc manages to pack one of the better features, though, a 90-minute documentary created for the PBS series American Masters called Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny. Through new interviews with Linklater and others close to him or who have worked with him over the years (including actors like Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and others), along with older interviews recorded throughout the years, we get a very personal and openly honest portrait of the director, who talk about his work, the difficulties along the way, while also sharing his journals, logs, and writings from over the years (this includes a book where he tracked all of his purchases during his early career, which humourously shows a lot of money was spent on Pepsi).
Admittedly the documentary only briefly mentions some of his more lackluster work (like Bad News Bears and Fast Food Nation, which get lumped into a ďperiodĒ of his work) but it goes through his work chronologically, with Boyhood coming up multiple times as we go year to year. It is at its best, though, when Linklater reflects on a lot of the luck that has gone into his success, which in turn offers a look at where filmmaking, particularly independent filmmaking, is now. Linklater muses about how he just happened to be born at the right time because if he found himself just entering the film world now he would more than likely not have the same success. To expand on this the documentary also offers a look at how Linklaterís Slacker really helped catapult the 90s indie film movement, Kevin Smith even popping up to explain how that film inspired him.
It doesnít differ all that much from other documentaries of its type but itís still an engaging look at Linklaterís career and work.
From there I moved on to the next feature on the disc, and any bit of enjoyment I got from that previous feature was quickly crushed, a visual essay put together by filmmaker ::kogonada called Linklater // On Cinema & Time. ::kogonada (a name which I keep seeing as the tail end of a C++ static method call still missing the scope) has provided a number of visual essays for Criterionís releases and though they can be frustratingly put together and can seem a little overdone to address what are ultimately not terribly in-depth observations, Iíve still found them generally harmless. This one, though, may have tested me a bit much. Here ::kogonada uses excerpts from a phone interview he conducted with Linklater who talks about how time is handled in his films. This is all well and good on its own, but then ::kogonada edits what is ultimately about 2 to 3 minutesí worth of comments over 8-minutesí worth of clips from Linklaterís films, linking them through similar scenes or dialogue. He also provides clips from Citizen Kane and Vertigo because film language. Michael Koresky had already put together a nice visual essay about Linklaterís use of time on Criterionís release of Boyhood, so Iím not sure why we get a round 2 here. The whole thing feels more like filler.
After that the disc then closes with a 9-minute behind-the-scenes feature that, similar to one on the Before Sunrise disc, feels like it was put together for promotional reasons, with Linklater, Delpy, Hawke, and others talking about the film and the general surprise of Before Sunrise getting a sequel. The segment also features clips from the film, though it looks like Criterion has again edited them in from their new restoration.
Itís the weakest disc in the set, and Iím still disappointed that there arenít any features more specific to this film (like a commentary). But the Linklater documentary is a really good one, almost making up for the lack of much else and ::kogonadaís contribution.