There are two lessons over the evolution of my writing that are very dear to me. The first being how to write, which I can attribute to a handful of teachers, one standing out among the rest. The other is why to write. For this lesson I solely regard Mr. Linklater. He showed me a world of film outside the characteristics of blockbusters and financial gain, giving me the freedom I needed to express my most cherished thoughts and ideas.
Richard Linklater’s twenty-plus years in the industry has allowed for quite the amazing filmography. His films have not exploded in the box office or garnered the attention they truly deserve and unfortunately, many movie-goers probably would not recognize his name. It is appalling how few film students are unaware of this writer/director when he is brought up in conversation. But still, the importance lies in the fact that he is still out there and he is still creating.
Style can be both a deal maker and breaker. Of course, in terms of Linklater, his style is what made it for me. The films I will be touching upon are his original works, perhaps with the exceptions of A Scanner Darkly and Bernie, all sharing his style and themes. His creation of character is important and surely a prized part of his writing, but his masterpieces are and will always be the interactions he creates.
At the age of twenty-five, Linklater created the Austin Film Society, starting a snowball effect of independent films in the city. Three years later, he had finished his first feature, holding every credit imaginable. This technique is rarely done today, other than high school vp classes. All of these events resulted in his homage to Edgar G. Ulmer’s film to be forever cemented with Detour Filmproduction. A fortunate spark to a future of brilliant filmmaking.
Many commonly associated Slacker as Linklater’s first feature film. Although not necessarily true, it can be argued it was the start of his recognition in the film world. In fact, it was this film that inspired Kevin Smith to make Clerks. Slacker simply shows a normal day in the city of Austin, Texas. However, the intricacies come with the people and their connections throughout this normal day. The $23,000 put into this film definitely brings out the gritty filmmaking. In some scenes you can see the boom poking into the shot. Yet, it all adds to the experience in that we get the true definition of independent filmmaking. Even further, we understand the drive of a filmmaker fighting to make his art. Slacker to me expels inspiration through its determination and meaning.
Not enough can be said about his followup, Dazed and Confused. This is the film most people know, even if Linklater isn’t on their radar (except for School of Rock, which again, nobody seems to know he directed). The greatest high school film of the 90s, Dazed and Confused touches on teenage angst with a lot of Richard Linklater sprinkled in. The strength of this film’s cast is overwhelming, as it pretty much put Ben Affleck on the map and definitely gave Matthew McConaughey his start into the business. This film follows many students on the last day of school, focusing on this absurd idea of individualism.
In many ways, I see Waking Life as Linklater’s updated version of Slacker. Because a young man is trapped in his own dream, he decides to walk around simply having conversations with all those he meets. This film showcases an intense array of philosophical thoughts and ideas, while using the technique of rotoscoping making each scene its own piece of art, both visually and mentally.
Waking Life was the first original work I ever saw of Linklater’s. I watched it even before knowing who he was. Where I was in pursuing my film career when first watching this film has escaped my memory, but my afterthoughts are well intact. A film like this had never really crossed my path, in that I didn’t know a film like this could be made. It blew my mind that a movie could consist of person after person just talking to one another and that’s it. Mind you, they are talking about some of the most amazing ideas, but for arguments sake they are just talking. Let me be clear, I am not critiquing, I am very much praising, for the next two films I am talking about changed my view on films forever.
Before Sunrise and Before Sunset paint the most beautiful pictures I have had the pleasure of seeing. The former follows the night of two young lovers in Vienna having just met that day on a train, but must separate the next morning. The latter has these lovers meet nine years later in Paris, sharing their unsatisfied lives with each other while dancing around their romantic moment before one has to catch a plane.
I love both of these films, but not necessarily equally, as I have specific reasons of enjoyment for each one. Before Sunrise takes the prize for the most honest romantic film of its time. The characters Linklater created are simply amazing. The casting was beyond spectacular. Most importantly, the way these two young lovers interacted made sense. Chemistry and romance take time, meaning the awkwardness and inexperience expressed by both characters plays a large role in the story. These are nowhere near perfect human beings coming together, they may not even be perfect for each other, but the situation is all that matters. Luckily for us, their situation creates a beautiful relationship.
Saying Before Sunset is a great film, is a bit of an understatement for me. Everyone has their film, the one that put them over the edge, morphing their outlook and taking them into the direction they have always dreamed of going. Before Sunset is my bible in that sense. It is the film that locked me into my passion. Not even by the end, by the first sequence when they are walking to the coffee shop, I knew this is the type of films I want to write, to create. This film is the muse I needed to keep me going. Linklater gave me something to watch anytime I am lost and remember where I am meant to be.
Sunset is Linklater’s most recent original work until the release of the film that sparked this post in the first place. Before Midnight will be the next and probably final installment of the Before series. Anticipation is quite high as these films are very dear to me. However, for some reason, Richard Linklater’s filmography maintains just as much importance. How he has grown as a filmmaker merits attention, but it is the ways in which he has stayed the same throughout his career that continues to fuel my inspiration.
My favorite director of the time, and definitely the greatest independent filmmaker of all time, Richard Linklater’s persona both in and out of his films says wonders about the man. He is creating films for himself. Through his films we see that money is not the same thing as meaning, and the measure of success lies within ourselves. Here’s to the twenty-five years he’s been making films, and here’s to twenty-five more.