Thursday, 19 February 2009

Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater is the archetypal post-modern director. His career, sprinkled with both the commonplace and the divine, is typical of the artist riding the Hollywood rollercoaster.

Famous for: Dazed and Confused, The School of Rock, A Scanner Darkly, Fast Food Nation

He started out doing credit-card-budget short film (Woodshock, 1985) and slice of life stuff (It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, 1988) before settling into a few years of "Keep Austin Weird": Heads I Win/Tails You Lose and Slacker, his first breakout film--pretty much on par with Kevin Smith's Clerks.
In 1993 Linklater got some serious money together and created Dazed and Confused, a coming-of-age classic starring freshfaced actors Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, Ben Affleck and Parker Posey.

Two years later he wrote and directed Before Sunrise. The lightly-played romance unfurled through Vienna's cobbled streets, and was quietly discovered by video store addicts, one by one. The sequel Before Sunset was released in 2004 and is, in my opinion, one of the best films ever made. Set in Paris, it is as ad-libbed as it is scripted, and the dialogue and characterisations by Hawke and Delphy are as naturalistic as can be put to film. Romantic themes in American films are typically as subtle as a shovel to the face, so the real-time conversational mode in the films comes as blissful relief.
Linklater entered the L.A. cultural wasteland for the next decade, churning out trash (The Newton Boys, SubUrbia) and in 2003 The School of Rock which, while fun and freewheeling, is pretty ordinary stuff.
One of his side projects--you could say side effects--of his studio-dictated existence was an animated squiggle-vision film in 2001 called Waking Life which explored a level of philosophy best appreciated under the influence of class-B hallucigens. He followed up in 2006 with a similar project featuring, appropriately, Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr, called A Scanner Darkly.

He returned to his roots in 2004 with a documentary, $5.15/Hr, about a Denny-like restaurant and the peons who inhabited it. He pushed the concept through to a grand pasture-to-plate in the major 2008 release, Fast Food Nation.
His other cinema films of the last decade, Tape (Ethan Hawke blackmails a fellow Dead Poets' Society alum) and a 2005 remake of Bad News Bears, don't bear the Linklater imprimateur. He spent time in front of the camera in Slacker and Waking Life, and also wandering into odd parts in other films: non-cameo roles credited as 'Crony 2', 'Cab Passenger', or 'Cool Spy', even decades after he was well-known as a director and writer.

Linklater is currently submerged, plumbing the murky depths in a longtudinal film known only as Untitled 12-Year Richard Linklater Project, tentatively slated to come out in 2013.

The man's a craftsman. Give him time.

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