In the two and a half decades since his first feature film Slackers debuted at New Directors/New Films in New York, Richard Linklater has built an unlikely career out of humility and driven artistic ambition. Choosing to remain in Austin, Texas rather than racing blindly for the big lights of Tinseltown he’s cultivated an enviable reputation as an indie auteur and the epitome of the mission at Sundance. In Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny, a new film screening at this year’s festival, Louis Black and Karen Bernstein pay warm tribute to the filmmaker in what is a fitting ode to independent spirit more than a penetrating portrait.
That is not to say that low-points in Linklater’s filmography are not addressed, but this is generally as part of a discourse on the travails of working inside and outside the industry proper, and difficulties in financing less conventional material. Naturally, this is most evident with his much-adored Boyhood which remained a source of tension year on year during its decade-spanning production. Behind the scenes snippets and talking heads help to add much colour to the image, but it is Black’s friendship with Linklater – which allows for direct discussions with the subject and intimate archival footage that bring through a sense of character that the filmmaker himself would be proud of.
Austin is painted in golden light as ‘Rick’ reminisces over baseball and writing as a youngster. He leafs through old journals, candidly revealing his inspirations and frustrations. From a teenage biography of Dostoyevsky he switches to film in the form of a one man production, recording sound on a Walkman strapped to his waste and performing in front of a previously set-up camera. That invention was to stand him in good stead throughout a career in which he has made continual use of it. Black and Bernstein approach that story in fairly chronological fashion – albeit with the odd tangential thematic diversion – but it helps to follow the atmosphere in which each of the films are made and the growing respect that Linklater garners.
There are appearances from a number of the people that have collaborated with him over the years, not least the actors with whom he has been a considerable rapport like Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Matthew McConaughey . Jack Black, with whom he made hit studio comedy School of Rock before venturing behind the pine curtain for Bernie, provides interesting insight into how Linklater’s indie credentials and world view made him the ideal person to make School of Rock a success. For the uninitiated, that may be the only Linklater film they were familiar with before Boyhood deservedly catapulted him into the wider consciousness and this film will be the perfect primer for their subsequent exploration of the Before trilogy and Dazed and Confused. Fans, on the other hand, will find Dream Is Destiny reminiscent of the feeling evoked by a Linklater film: like spending time with an old friend.
Richard Linklater – Dream is Destiny is in UK cinemas and on demand from this Friday. dogwoof.com