Before Sunset

Before Sunset (2004)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Extras: Featurette, Theatrical Trailer

What would happen if, for just one day, you met someone that you fell deeply in love with? Now imagine 9 years have passed and one day you finally get to see that person again. This is where "Before Sunset" picks up from the conclusion of the spectacular "Before Sunrise" (1995). Original director Richard Linklater and cast Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy return in the surprise sequel to the small indie original.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing "Before Sunrise" essentially the film was quite basic in its concept. Two strangers meet on a train traveling to Vienna. There they decide to spend an entire day together traveling the city before each has to depart their separate ways. What was so remarkable about the film was that it focused predominately on good dialog. The entire film was focused around two people, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) as they walk through Vienna talking about life and love, each growing more passionate about one another. By the end of the day both characters have fallen deeply in love with each other and promise to return to Vienna in six months. Nine years have passed and they have met again in Paris. Now in their early 30’s, life has continued and both have made different commitments. And just like in "Sunrise", "Sunset" is completely dialog driven. What have they been doing for the past 9 years and will they still have the romantic feelings they felt for each other in the past?

After watching "Before Sunset" I was immediately impressed on numerous levels. First was the fact that director Richard Linklater was able to film cuts that lasted anywhere from 7 to 8 minutes in length. On a technical level this is extremely hard to do. Considering that the both actors are walking through the streets of Paris and not only have to remember large sums of dialog but also portray it to the viewer as believable conversation and not script reading. Both Hawke and Delpy should also be commended for their outstanding performances throughout this film. Once again they’re able to bring that magical screen presence together and envelop the viewer with every single word they say to each other.

Another interesting fact was that Ethan and Julie are the screenwriters on this film (the original was written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan). They really connect with their characters and so does the audience. This is a wonderful film that in some way betters the brilliant original. Also, since Delpy wrote a lot of the dialog for Celine, I’m very curious to know if some of Celine’s personality, emotionally and mentally, developed from within herself. I connected with Celine on so many levels in this film that at times I felt a romantic bond with her the same way Jesse wants to express. Now that’s great filmmaking.

An important note to take into consideration for those that have not watched "Before Sunrise" is to make sure you watch the first before watching "Sunset". The film will make more sense that way. Also your emotional involvement with the characters will be much greater. Also unfortunately "Sunset" is a lot shorter than "Sunrise". At 80 minutes this barely passes as a theatrical release. But for those 80 minutes you’ll wish that this peek into their lives would last an eternity.

Presented in a <$PS,widescreen> format that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets, the image on "Before Sunset" is incredibly soft. It seems that director Richard Linklater wanted to give the film an almost dreamy like appearance. Everything is masked in almost a fog and detail is very hard to see. Oddly this seems to clear up as the film progresses. Intentionally, I’m not sure. Thankfully colors are nice and natural, even when at certain moments flesh tones look a little to pinkish. The entire film takes place in Paris between we assume 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm so we get to see all the streets and landscape of Paris during the daytime. Noise and edge enhancements were nowhere to be found throughout the picture. Warner has provided better transfers in the past, but because this is originally an independent film with technical limitations, exceptions can be made.

Just like in the original, this film is entirely dialog driven. Almost for the entire 80 minutes of running time either Jesse or Celine are talking to one another. Nothing else noticeable happens besides a few instances where she plays a beautiful song for Jesse (sung nicely by Julie Delp, by the way). Basically this means that almost the entire film is presented through your center channel. Dialog is clear and clean with no noticeable bits of distortion or muddiness. Small bits of information are delivered to the main left and right but it’s minor and hardly noticeable. Again the soundtrack is satisfactory for the context of the film.

Sadly for such a great film, Warner has given this the "bottom of the barrel" treatment as far as extras go. We get a copy of the Theatrical Trailer and a small featurette called "On the set of Before Sunset." Running at just under 10 minutes, various members of the cast and crew are interviewed and give their impressions of the making of the film and about the characters in it. I’m very disappointed to not see a commentary for this picture. Of all the films that deserve it, this would have been a great opportunity for Richard, Ethan and Julie to talk about the picture and maybe talk about the original. It’s our loss sadly.

"Before Sunset" is one of the best films of the year and it’s great to actually see a sequel made to one of the best un-scene pictures of 1994. With barely any "Academy Nominated" type pictures coming out this winter, it would be nice to see great films such as this and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" receive the attention they deserve. And if you haven’t seen the original but are interested in owning both "Sunrise" and "Sunset" they are available in a box set. Highly recommended!