Founder's Directing Award
An Evening with Richard Linklater
FRIDAY, MAY 2
7:00 pm Castro Theatre
429 Castro Street (near Market)
$20 members, $25 general
The evening will include a clip reel of career highlights and an onstage interview followed by a screening of Boyhood.
One of the most profound and prolific American independent filmmakers of the last 20 years, Richard Linklater first burst onto the scene with his scrappy time capsule of Austin weirdness, Slacker (SFIFF 1991). Since then, Linklater's work has graced international film festival lineups, helped launch the careers of a number of prominent actors (Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey) and garnered several Oscar nominations. His much-celebrated new film Boyhood is his 18th feature film.
Filming over the course of 12 years, Linklater and his cast depict a young man's journey from a 6-year-old boy to 18-year-old college freshman. The resulting film "has no precedent" according to the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. "Never has the long arc of the journey from childhood to college been portrayed as cohesively and convincingly as Richard Linklater has done." (USA 2014, 162 min)
Just Go With It: The DIY Art of Richard Linklater
By David Fear
A young man sits on a moving bus, silently staring out the window. The vehicle pulls into a parking lot, that same quiet guy with the Prince Valiant haircut jumps off and, spotting a taxicab, gets in. “I just had the weirdest dream,” he says to the driver—and with that statement, we are ushered into the world of Richard Linklater, courtesy of the man himself.
Before we meet the pop-star–pap-smear hawkers, conspiracy theorists, geriatric anarchists, dreadlocked hipsters and the dozens of other Texas-eccentrics who make up Linklater’s “official” debut film Slacker (his first finished project, a Super-8 opus titled It’s Impossible to Plow by Reading Books, was never publicly screened or seen until it showed up on the Criterion Collection’s DVD of Slacker), we’re treated to a rant from the director about parallel realities. “Every thought you have creates its own reality. Every choice or decision you make…the thing you choose not to do, fractions off and becomes its own reality. It just goes on from there. Forever.”
It’s possible to think that, somewhere out there, a parallel reality exists in which the aimless teen who went to Sam Houston State University on a baseball scholarship did not quit school, work on an oil rig and begin a cine-history self-education that involved seeing three to four movies a day. Or, possibly, an alt-universe that is oh-so-similar to ours, only Richard Linklater sticks to a life in which he, in his own words, “closed down the school library every night and started writing plays,” never buys a camera, co-founds the Austin Film Society or meets Lee Daniel, the cinematographer who would shoot his first four movies.
Or, in one last what-if scenario, inspiration does not strike Linklater as he’s driving from Austin to Houston at 2 am when, as he recounts to author Stephen Lowenstein, he thinks to himself: “Well, why couldn’t you just do a film where you meet a character and go with them for a bit and then go off with someone else? It wouldn’t make any sense on paper, but you could just go with it. It would be purely cinematic, you know?” Maybe, in this world, he doesn’t abandon the more run-of-the-mill script he’s working on (that no industry folk will give him money for), or simply never decides to make a 16mm project full of manic monologues that ends with someone throwing a camera off a cliff. We never get that climax that declares: Cinema is dead. (Take that, Weekend-era Godard!) Long live the new cinema.
Thankfully, we live in this reality, where Slacker becomes one of the burgeoning Sundance Nation’s holy trinity (along with sex, lies and videotape and Reservoir Dogs) and helps fuel a revolution already in progress. Had Linklater never made another film besides that free-form, funky portrait of Austin’s freaks and geeks, he’d still be ensured a place in the lo-fi, do-or-die DIY moviemaking pantheon. (And, for that matter, have still introduced a term for Gen-Xers into the early ’90s lexicon.)
Instead, this singular artist used this way-left-of-center manifesto to kick off a career full of expectation defying left turns. He may have named his production company “Detour” as an homage to Edgar G. Ulmer’s beloved 1945 B-noir classic, but it’s an apt name for a body of work that feels like it’s following its own tangential route. Most people would not follow up an indie-cinema landmark with a teen-stoner-comedy-cum-coming-of-age classic set in 1976 and sponsored by Universal (Dazed and Confused). They wouldn’t do a Rohmeresque romance about 20-somethings gabbing their way through Europe and into each other’s hearts—and pants—à la Before Sunrise, then chase after an adaptation of an Eric Bogosian play (SubUrbia) and a big-budget Western (The Newton Boys). How many oeuvres contain a star vehicle (School of Rock), a ’70s remake (The Bad News Bears), an avant-digital three-hander (Tape), a rotoscoped Philip K. Dick sci-fi parable about drug addiction (A Scanner Darkly) and an Altmanesque takedown of the corporate food industry (Fast Food Nation)? Many filmmakers have the term maverick bestowed upon them. Linklater embodies the concept.
His latest project, Boyhood, is proof that the 53-year-old director has not stopped pushing boundaries or taking the roads less traveled. A project 12 years in the making, the film follows the fictional story of a kid, played by nonprofessional actor Ellar Coltrane, as he goes from ages six to 18. That synopsis, however, does not do justice to this extraordinary film’s ambition or its big-picture gambit: Taking a page out of the Up documentary series’ playbook, Linklater filmed Coltrane and the rest of the cast (including Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and the director’s own daughter, Lorelei) once a year starting in 2002. The result feels as if you’re watching a boy grow into a man before your very eyes. No major melodramas play out. Not much happens, except life itself. It ends, like another of Linklater’s movies, with a group of young folks goofing around on a cliff in Austin. Our hero might throw a camera over the edge. He might buck the odds and decide to become a world-class filmmaker. You can practically hear the director with the laconic drawl offer his advice. Yeah, man, sure. Make a movie if you want to. You can do it. Just go with it.
Bio: David Fear is a Senior Editor at RollingStone.com. He was the film critic and film editor of Time Out New York from 2004 to 2013, and his writing has been published in the New York Times Magazine, New York Daily News, Esquire, Village Voice, Spin, Blender and San Francisco Bay Guardian.