‘Before’ Trilogy Criterion Blu-ray Release is a Lovingly Crafted Set

Though I have yet to see it, MMM’s Editor in Chief Will Oliver unequivocally loved Richard Linklater’s 2016 film Everybody Wants Some!!. Oliver wrote that Linklater is a “master at capturing conversation” and makes natural dialogue seem effortless. This characteristic is a hallmark of all his films, including his previous films released from Criterion, Slacker, Dazed and Confused and Boyhood. In February, another batch of Linklater’s films joined the Criterion Collection, specifically his Before trilogy, 1995’s Before Sunrise, 2004’s Before Sunset and 2013’s Before Midnight, all of which star Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke and their indelible romance as Céline and Jesse.

This trilogy incorporates another now characteristic element of Linklater’s. Between Boyhood and this trilogy, Linklater has circumvented CGI and camera wizardry with regards to aging his characters and involving the viewer in their growth. He channels the passage of time by allowing the characters to simmer both in “real” time and in the viewers’ minds. Many people, including myself, likely left Before Sunrise ruminating as to whether or not the lovers would meet again six months later.

Before Sunrise is quite simply a must see film. The tiny indie cost $2.5 million to make and more than doubled that at the box office. What was most striking is how naturally Linklater captured the backpacking experience. Backpacking expands one’s horizons as you are left open to new experiences including international romance. Céline and Jesse meet in Vienna while traveling solo and bond as they roam the city. A promise to meet again in six months is made.

And that meeting never happens. Fortunately, however, Linklater had the forethought to give dreamers more Céline and Jesse (perhaps because he incorporated the characters into his 2001 animated film Waking Life). Hawke explained to The Guardian, “It’s not like anybody was begging us to make a second film. We obviously did it because we wanted to.” The incomplete romance continues in Before Sunset. The second film finds the pair meeting in Paris where Jessie is touring to support his book “This Time” which had been inspired by his experiences in the first film. The flame is rekindled as they address their young and once immature love. And at the end, Jessie absconds from his familial duties (he has a wife and son) to remain with Céline.

The Before Trilogy covers

Before Midnight finds Céline and Jesse as parents (together — twin girls), again nine years later and this time on vacation in Greece. Instead of budding romance however, the couple now are squabbling as they navigate marriage and commitment. The film’s scope expands to include a few other characters but the focus is of course on the couple attempting to restore their flame within a reality where they are spending more than just a couple of days together. If by now you haven’t yet seen these films, I won’t spoil the ending. Experiencing Céline and Jesse’s relation was worth the 18-year wait — and fortunately now your wait time is no more.

Pick up the Criterion Blu-ray Before Trilogy set to get the three films in paper cases which have a painterly feel on which Céline and Jesse are lovingly posed. The three cases are housed inside a paper slipcover which depicts a solar progression in a watercolor style. Before Sunrise‘s packaging is the larger of the three as it includes the booklet with an essay, film notes and credits. The three films have individual spine numbers (857, 858 & 859) but they are only available as a complete set. And as far as bonus features are concerned, the Criterion set offers a definitive experience.

Director Approved Edition Features (via Criterion)

  • New, restored 2K digital transfers of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset and a 2K digital master of Before Midnight, approved by director Richard Linklater, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Before Sunrise Blu-ray and 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks on the Before Sunset and Before Midnight Blu-rays
  • New discussion featuring Linklater and actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, moderated by critic Kent Jones
  • Behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from the productions of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset
  • Audio commentary on Before Midnight by Delpy, Linklater, and Hawke
  • Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny, a feature-length 2016 documentary by Louis Black and Karen Bernstein
  • After Before, a new documentary by Athina Rachel Tsangari about the making of Before Midnight in Greece
  • New conversation between scholars Dave Johnson and Rob Stone about Linklater’s work
  • Episode of the radio program Fresh Air featuring host Terry Gross, Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke
  • Linklater // On Cinema & Time, a 2016 video essay by filmmaker :: kogonada
  • PLUS: An essay on the trilogy by critic Dennis Lim

The Before Trilogy discs