The best of Richard Linklater

Several dozen college aged and younger women staggered out of the theater in February 1995, as glum as if they’d watched Schindler’s List for a project. Before Sunrise wasn’t an Ethan Hawke movie. Before Sunrise was like no American film in 1995. I’d just watched several Rohmer films for the first time, and while the badinage was at a higher plane — no banter about Jansenism between Richard Linklater’s protagonists — Americans are expert at action, are insouciant about recoiling from ideas. I’m tempted to bring it down a couple pegs after the colossal disappointment of Before Midnight, but judging by the critical response I was in the minority; I don’t think The Adventures of Jesse and Celine require more than two films, and he didn’t even know what to do with the goddamn camera after twenty years of filmmaking. How much of a shouldn’t-have-happened scenario can one watch? But the freshness of the shit talking and Linklater’s attention to topography put Before Sunrise and to a lesser extent Sunset over.

The rest of his catalog is easy: chronicling the movement of guys on the make, often critically, always affectionately. As a queer man I’m surprised I’m so tolerant; I know several colleagues who wanted to hurl cow manure at the screen during Everybody Wants Some!!. These films — I include School of Rock — are unfashionable in the twenty-first century, during which we expect more queerness and less affection. So let me put in a word for Me and Orson Welles, forgotten now, and its best-ever portrait of the boy genius (Christian McKay), recognizing talent on the make in Zac Efron’s high schooler.

1. Dazed and Confused
2. Before Sunrise
3. Before Sunset
4. Boyhood
5. Me and Orson Welles
6. Waking Life
7. School of Rock
8. Everybody Wants Some!!
9. Tape
10. Bernie

2 thoughts on “The best of Richard Linklater

  1. For me, before sunrise/sunset/midnight (which was not a disappointment at all to me) is by far his greatest achievement. The rest of his films are ok. Boyhood was nice, waking life also. But I think the before movies capture an age and a place in life that I have always found amazing to relate to, being just a few years younger than the characters.

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