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In an exclusive interview, Richard Linklater tells Trunkworthy why River’s Edge — part of Austin Film Society’s “Jewels in the Wasteland” screening and discussion series — is something you must see.

“I remember Tim Hunter’s River’s Edge being a big deal for myself and my friends. I think the film has a lot going for it. In the era of Flashdance and Top Gun it had the guts to go dark. It’s a good teen movie but there’s an extra-chromosome guy who’s a total psychopath, and he kills somebody, this girl, you know, and it’s kinda like: What to do?

It’s an odd, off-kilter teenage story and the performances . . . it’s Keanu, Ione Skye. Crispin Glover gives a total gonzo performance. And then, of course, there’s Dennis Hopper, you know, in his mid-’80s groove: Blue Velvet, Hoosiers, River’s Edge. It was like Hopper was suddenly back with a vengeance.

I thought it was kind of in line with a great, huge movie like Los Olvidados [aka The Young and the Damned] – an American Bunuel, or something. It had kind of a bleak vibe to it, kind of ‘end of the world’ – how you feel at that age. I don’t know how I would have felt if I saw it as a teenager – I was in my 20s – but I remember thinking it just takes guts to make a movie about that. It was so against the grain of what the 80s were aspiring to. It has a lot of humor in it but the underpinnings are pretty bleak.

When I was doing Dazed and Confused, people were [asking] ‘What’s a good teenage movie?’ and I always said the Tim Hunter ‘Edge’ movies. Over the Edge from ’79 and River’s Edge (’86). Tim wrote Over the Edge and he directed River’s Edge. So there’s something about Tim Hunter and teenage movies – he’s the master of a certain kind of alienation and crazy teenage energy.

The mission of the Austin Film Society [is] to show films that we think are totally worthwhile. Jewels in the Wasteland is kind of a mixed bag because some films I know are really great, and people have seen them. But I’m always surprised by the films that I think everyone has seen, then I find out, in fact, people haven’t. It’s always great to see them in their context, you know, to see them with an audience, 35mm print. That’s what we’re doing – and it’s definitely special to have that opportunity.

A lot of the titles, I haven’t seen in 30 years. It’s fun to revisit. It’s kind of like going back to a museum you haven’t visited in a couple of decades. More often than not, almost every time, I’ve come away going, ‘That film is better than I remember’ and there’s been some real, for me, rediscovery. I mean, that’s what I was hoping for, but I’m glad when it’s confirmed.

River’s Edge was such a great teen movie, and as time went on I realized . . . it wasn’t a hit. I thought everyone had seen it. And then I come to find out that people don’t really know that film so much anymore. Which is too bad. So I hope it’s a discovery for people.”

—Richard Linklater

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