Linklater’s Before Trilogy comes to Criterion
Love, dreams, and destiny
Having classified the Before Trilogy as both a personal favorite and a mark of excellence in filmmaking, I jumped at the opportunity to write about the collector's set (finally) being released on Blu-ray for the Criterion Collection. Sitting down with the discs, analyzing the special feature conversations, and then rediscovering scenes already seared into my brain, however, reminded me how powerful these films are. How can you capture a series that morphs beautifully every time you screen it?
Hometown hero Richard Linklater's classic movies Dazed & Confused, Slacker, and Boyhood are all already members of the elite Criterion club, but Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight just joined the roster, and as a first-time box set. The set's multimedia special features include Athina Rachel Tsangari's new documentary, After Before (about the making of Before Midnight in Greece), an essay by critic Dennis Lim with photograph stills, and an episode of NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross hosting Linklater, along with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Several other interviews lend insight and insider information, and the 2016 full-length documentary, Richard Linklater: dream is destiny, by Karen Bernstein and the Chronicle's own Louis Black (co-founder and co-editor) is an added bonus.
Intricate in its simplicity, the trilogy, shot in nine-year intervals, is primarily driven by incredibly well-written dialogue performed by Hawke and Delpy, who completely embody their roles as Jesse and Celine. The strolling conversations, which become more poignant with every screening, are philosophical explorations about the fundamental elements of life: time, love, and death. Linklater's scripts grasp how both strangers and lovers speak to each other, how romance is both thwarted and enhanced by spatial restrictions, and how age has everything and nothing to do with the way we love another person. The negative space between the lines of Jesse and Celine's relationship is almost as important as the oceanic waves of words: Thoughtful moments of silence in passionate companionship are vital, too. We're reminded by watching this pair exist in specific moments in time – across decades – that the most romantic thing about love is its fluidity.
Like holding a treasure chest containing a beloved sliver of the silver screen, this box set is tangible evidence of an incredible love story spanning nearly 20 years, and much more aesthetically pleasing than that old shoebox full of love letters in the closet.
The Before Trilogy Criterion Collection 3-disc Blu-ray set is available Tue., Feb. 28, for $99.95. See www.criterion.com for more info.