- May 7, 2001
Studio: Warner Brothers
Film Length: 80 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Enhanced Widescreen
Audio: DD 5.1
Languages: English & French
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
Package: Single disc/Keepcase
Before Sunset is the second Warner Independent release to arrive here for review in as many weeks. Late last year, Warner Bros. Entertainment announced the crea
tion of Warner Independent Pictures, an autonomous film label to be headed by Mark Gill as its President who spent numerous years at Miramax and Columbia/Tri Star. The intent of the new independent label is to distribute and market all genres of films, with varying budgets to all audiences and not be limited by traditional, mainstream releases.
The initial strategy is for Warner Independent to produce or acquire up to 10 films per year with production budgets up to $20 million for worldwide release, drawing from new directors and established filmmakers, as well as from international filmmakers who are already a part of Warner Bros. Pictures International's film production and distribution program. Warner Independent will also acquire films that are better suited for a boutique-like release slate.
Before Sunset is one of those reasons why I’m thankful to do reviews. It is an opportunity to view films that I would have otherwise ignored. Not only was I unfamiliar with it, but I had never even heard of the original film for which this sequel was based upon, Before Sunrise (1995). In fact I read so many good things about the original film, I decided to go and pick it up so I would have some idea as to what the sequel was about, and am I glad I did.
Nine years ago, Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) and Celine (played by Julie Delpy) are traveling separately on a train in Europe. After meeting aboard the train, the two connect and they decide to exit the train and to share some time with each other in Vienna. After spending just a short time with other they realize they are soulmates, who share very similar interests and ideas on life. There’s only one problem, Jesse has to catch a plane in the morning, and their time together must end before sunset. They vow to meet up with each other in six months at the same train platform, but as fate would have it, they never re-connect.
Fast forward nine years and Jesse, who has just written a book, is in Paris to do a press interview and a book signing at a local bookstore. As the interview winds down, Jesse looks up to see Celine standing there, the first time he has seen her since their initial encounter nine years ago. Ironically, the book Jesse has written is about their lone night they shared some nine years earlier. It would seem as though Celine was familiar with Jesse’s book and was aware of his impending book tour. And while the meeting was not coincidental, both Jesse and Celine are only too happy to spend their afternoon walking and talking in the streets of Paris.
Initially, their discussion covers nothing more than small-talk and generally topics that are rather commonplace (a long time has passed and their lives have changed drastically). After they start to feel more comfortable again with each other, they open up and spend the remainder of their time talking about their successes and failures in their lives. Perhaps both are now a little smarter and a little wiser. The flame they shared many years ago quickly rekindles but Jesse’s return flight to the U.S. is in just a few hours and whatever decision he makes, he must do so before sunset.
Both films take place in real time and the characters simply spend their time together talking about an assortment of issues throughout the course of long – extremely long single takes that are executed brilliantly by the film’s director, Richard Linklater. Both films seem very natural with wonderful and believable dialogue with the original movie having an early 20’s feel to it, displaying youth and innocence while the sequel seems slightly more mature with the ordinary complications that have accumulated over time. Both films have an extremely genuine feel to them and never are you left feeling they are reading from a script, as their conversations are free and never seemingly rehearsed. Their personal interactions and chemistry is as believable and as strong as any you’ll see in a romantic film.
It’s funny, during one scene, Celine asks Jesse, “do you think we look any different?” It was interesting to see the pair after almost a decade. While time has been pretty friendly to Julie, I’m afraid it hasn’t been so kind to Ethan who surprisingly seems to have aged considerably.
The single disc itself is housed in a keepcase and comes with an insert which is basically a $5.00 rebate coupon for the purchase of both films. Upon insertion of the disc, we get several forced trailers for upcoming WB Independents starting with Criminal, A Home At The End Of The World, and We Don’t Live Here Anymore – all of which are easily skip-able. Hey, anyone notice that several of the recent WB releases include a new FBI warning…?
The Feature: 4/5
I don’t want to spend much time focusing on the original film, Before Sunrise, but suffice it to say this sequel, Before Sunset looks far and away, much better. And in all fairness Before Sunrise was an early entry film to disc and we have seen drastic changes in the quality of transfers even in the past year or two.
Colors were vibrant and perhaps slightly on the warmer side. The level of saturation seemed good, however, skin tones looked slightly reddish. Black levels were acceptable, while whites were usually stark and clean.
Image detail was satisfactory. There were many great examples of very defined images – both with close-ups and with wider and longer shots, but I felt the image was slightly softer than what we’re used to with newer releases. Remember, I didn’t see this theatrically, so it may very well be a perfect representation of the film?!
There were only slight amounts of fine film grain present but disappointingly, the film lacked any real depth or dimensionality. I was also somewhat disappointed in the contrast and levels of shadow detail. The film has a very contrasty look about it which, at times, looks bright – very bright. Definition is at times lost amidst the frequent brightness.
The print was virtually immaculate and free of any dust or dirt as well as scratches or blemishes, as we would expect for a new film. The overall image was solid and I was able to detect little, if any, edge enhancement or other digital artifacts.
I can’t say for sure since I didn’t see this film theatrically, but it falls short – slightly short of what we’ve come to expect from newer releases.
Even though this is a DD 5.1 track, there is very little to speak of in terms of its performance.
As you might expect, this film is entirely dialogue driven, all of which is pretty much anchored to the center channel. Dialogue is always exceptionally bold and clear.
I found myself making very few notes during this film in terms of music, effects, surrounds etc., basically there aren’t any. Even accompanying music is virtually non-existent. And really, considering the content and style of the film, it’s better for it.
Not really much to speak of in terms of special features, but WB has included the following:
[*] On the Set of Before Sunset features a number of contributions from director Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and producer, Anne Walker-Mcbay. Discussed are the ideas and the origins of the project and how it went from concept to film, which Julie Delpy seemed to be the driving force. They also discuss the rehearsals and the length of the shoot. It would appear as though the actors brought quite a bit of their own reality to this film which may account for the honesty of their performances. Brief, but interesting. Duration: 9:49 minutes.
[*] The only other special feature is the Theatrical Trailer which is in great shape. Duration: 2:17 minutes.
Special Features: 2/5
**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**
Before Sunrise is a film which garnered a considerable amount of critical acclaim with the honest and natural performances from Hawke and Delpy. While I am always apprehensive about sequels, Before Sunset delivers equally. Sure, perhaps Before Sunset lacks some of the freshness and the magic of the original project, but the sequel is every bit as engaging and will have you transfixed for 80 minutes as these charming characters do nothing but talk for the duration of the film. The performances of Hawke and Delpy are every bit as energetic and touching than those in their first appearance nine years earlier.
The presentation of this film is almost on par with the quality of the content. The A/V is solid but not flashy, however, the supplemental material is a little lacking. Fans of the film or those who might be intrigued after their experience with the original film should have no concerns regarding to the presentation of Before Sunset, however, it’s not likely to leave a lasting impression.
If there is indeed a third installment, I’m not sure what they’d call it but I feel pretty comfortable in stating that it would be a welcomed thought.
Overall Rating: 4/5 (not an average)
Release Date: November 9th, 2004