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Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy

     "Nine years after Before Sunrise (1995), the trio at the core of the movie - actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, director Richard Linklater - are older, hopefully wiser, and still pals, collaborating as peers on the sequel, Before Sunset. The new film was embraced by audiences and critics at its world premiere at the February Berlin Film Festival. I saw it this Spring, at its joyful first American showing at the South by Southwest Fest in Austin, Texas, Linklater's home town. The morning after, I talked with Delpy and then "Rick" Linklater about the two films.

     I asked Delpy about appearing with Hawke.

     "We have very similar kinds of acting patterns," the French actress explained. "The first take is OK. The next takes are a bit less natural, then we get into a zone where we both lose the sense of time. When I don't remember what I've done, when I get myself into the character completely, that's the best. Rick would never stop a shot in the middle, and I would never stop. If it's a good take for Ethan, why would I interrupt him?"

     The shooting seems so easy, casual, effortless. Delpy laughed. "We'd work all night to make it flow. I told a friend who came to the set, 'Remember when we had dinner with Ethan, wasn't that fun?' The friend: 'Fun? All you two did was run your lines!' We were like machines."

     The first film, she (Celine) and he (Jesse) were single and unattached, spending a magic night together in Vienna. The second film, Jesse is married back in the USA, Celine has a boyfriend in Paris, setting of the story. Delpy: "She's dating an interesting guy, a war photographer. But why does Jesse so attract her? He has the personality of a sensitive man, he's emotional. They sense the world the same way, they analyze things around them the same way. You know how important that is - it's exciting.

     Is the new film autobiographical? "There was a thirty-page essay that I wrote after George Bush got elected, afraid that he's all about war. When Rick sent me the script, there were big chunks of my essay [in Celine's conversation]." The story Celine tells about her happy time being in Poland? "That's a true story, when I was shooting Europa Europa, and my mind was free." And what of Celine's confession that she lived for a while without feelings? Delpy nodded. "There was a rare time in my life when I was unemotional. You play with fire when you have relationships that are insignificant. Better than to cut myself off again is to be the hyperemotional person I really am!"

     I asked Linklater to compare the two films, me admiring what great smooching occurred in the earlier, Before Sunrise.

     "The first was all about kissing, and the build-up," Linklater agreed. "In the new one, there's a certain taboo, besides the French kiss on the cheek and the hug at the end. Yet now they have a looseness and openness talking about sex. Nine years ago, we were getting to know each other, now we're good friends and can make sex jokes. Yet, in the movie, it's all theory, all conversation, although they've slept together before. It's awkward and yet they know each other, from that first sexual encounter.

     "In the first film, they had time to kill, in a city neither was familiar with. In the second, Paris is her home town, he's got time schedules. You can't return to no obligations. At some point, you can no longer backpack across Europe. But they haven't sold out, their passions remain, their curiosity, their liveliness."

     Linklater acknowledged that shooting in the Paris day, versus the Vienna night, was infinitely harder. "It's easier to control the environment at night; the sun is in different positions. France is not a friendly place to shoot, with a choked-off bureaucracy, and it sometimes took three weeks to get permissions. Sometime early on we grasped the enormity of what we were biting off, and said, 'Oh shit!'"

     I asked the filmmaker of Slacker about a fellow Texan, our slacker president.

     Linklater shuddered.

     "I met him in a social situation. I'd be surprised if he's seen any of my films. He's affable, but I don't want that frat lunkhead running my country. He wasn't the artistic slacker but the money-grubbing slacker, the hedonistic kind, into beer and coke, and then this desperate 'Born Again.' I want to have a big rally here to let the world know not everyone in Texas is goose-stepping in line to his drumbeat. Where he's from is not Austin, it's a oil-rich town with a Rolls Royce dealership. I'm working wih getting directors to do [anti-Bush] spots. I'm not your run-of-the-mill Democrat. I'm for regime change."

(Boston Phoenix, June 2004)


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