Richard Linklater After Sunrise

The Alternative Film Maker Returns for a Retrospective At the Austrian Film Museum

On The Town | Dardis McNamee | June 2007

Before Richard Linklater, Vienna was the city of The Third Man to the film lovers of the English-speaking world. It was the romantic world of dark dealings in the glistening black and white of the Four-Power Occupation in the first years after World War II.

Then in 1995 came Before Sunrise. In this deceptively simple romance between a young American, Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine, une jeune francaise (Julie Delpy) who meet on a train, once again the unsung supporting lead was Vienna itself, now revealed as an easy going, quirky and still intimate city at home in the modern era, a place where two young people can wander through 14 hours of self-discovery along the bridges, cobbled walks and greenways of the Inner City.

Linklater, considered a trend setter in alternative film, will be in Vienna again June 17-22, on the 13the anniversary of the filming of Before Sunrise,  for a restrospective of his films to be presented at the Vienna Film Museum, Augustinerstrasse 1,  June 1-24.

The choice of Vienna for Before Sunrise was not accidental; the original script had two young people meeting on an Amtrak train along the U.S. East Coast to New York. The original setting, while effective, had none of the magnified sense of revelation across cultures, languages and landscapes that gives Before Sunrise much of its charm.

But most remarkable about the film is how natural it all feels – a chance encounter that seems to develop through a full arc of connection and recognition, effortlessly told in the course of an almost everyday conversation. Jesse and Celine explore each other, testing, teasing, trying to get closer, yet never quite sure how they want it to turn out. It is a near perfect film of its kind, a pas de deux of reflection and flirtation that is never entirely at ease, which manages to keep a fragile balance of quirkiness and authenticity, true without being trite.

Nine years later, Jesse and Celine meet again, as she appears suddenly outside of Shakespeare and Co. bookstore in Paris where Jesse is signing copies of his new book, which tells a story remarkably like the first encounter in Vienna, and answer the questions of what has happened in between. This film, Before Sunset, is widely considered even better than the first, the characters older and more knowing, funnier and more playful because they have lived more fully.

Rumor has it that the character of Jesse was closely modeled on Linklater himself, a guess confirmed by in an interview with Ethan Hawke following the release of Before Sunset.

"I have always seen Jesse as kind of like 1/3 me, 1/3 Rick and 1/3 Julie Delpy’s fantasy man," Hawke told journalist Rebecca Murray, for "On the first movie, I’d just met him and stuff, so I’m pretty much just doing a Richard Linklater impersonation… I dressed exactly like he dressed and just imitated him. And I get a little bit of that in this movie, too."

Linklater’s other work includes Slacker, and Dazed and Confused, and the current popular film Fast Food Nation, based on Eric Schlosser’s best-selling expose of the McDonald’s company and the effect of the fast food industry as a whole on the economy, life and values of contemporary America.

In a recent interview with Mother Jones magazine, Linklater described Fast Food Nation as a chance to "depict an industry as seen from the bottom." Having worked on an oil rig as a young adult, he found it easy to make the jump to what he called "the boots-and-hard-hat world of the meat-processing plant," a film that forces the audience to examine their own role in the status quo.

"It brings up the question: What do you do? You can vote with your consumer dollars, you can vote in elections—supposedly.

"But is that enough?"

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