Richard Linklater: dream is destiny
2016, NR, 86 min. Directed by Louis Black, Karen Bernstein.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 26, 2016
It’s been a quarter-century since Austin-based filmmaker Richard Linklater released Slacker, a sublime and crafty-cool, ultra-low-budget masterpiece that’s probably inspired more young filmmakers to take up their own cameras than any other late-20th century film I can think of. Slacker famously meandered around the then-relatively sleepy college town, following the director’s own dreamy, internal logic and set the tone-poem template for so much of this genuine American auteur to come. Richard Linklater: dream is destiny, co-directed by Austin Chronicle/SXSW co-founder Louis Black and Emmy and Grammy Award-winning documentarian Karen Bernstein, presents a nuanced, thoughtful portrait of the artist as a youngish man (at 56, he retains the philosophically questing mind of a writer-director half his age) who long ago chose to work outside the system and instead has graced American cinema with a body of work that almost never fails to challenge, explore, and examine in minute detail the interstitial moments of human relationships that his Hollywood compatriots forsake in favor of big budgets and bloated storylines.
Linklater’s post-Slacker movies don’t just play out between the lines, they wander off to explore the margins and then dig deep into the very molecules of the page. One need only watch the romantic trilogy that began with 1995’s Before Sunrise and concluded with 2013’s Before Midnight to recognize his skill at penning characters who overflow with powerful, often messy, but always intensely human emotions. (And that certainly includes the two wildly varying Jack Black vehicles School of Rock and Bernie.)
To help unlock the mystery of their low-key, laid-back subject, Black and Bernstein have assembled a group of actors (Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke), producers (Tommy Pallotta), editor Sandra Adair, and others to provide reminiscences and background, but as Jack Black points out, there’s no real mystery to Linklater’s indie spell: “It’s just hard work.” Added to that is a tremendous amount of onscreen input from Linklater himself; he’s seen showing Louis Black, who had a cameo in Slacker, a collection of old notebooks chronicling his early thoughts, ideas, and deep, daily observations on his pre-Slacker life. Linklater always dreamed of being either a writer or, early on, a major-league baseball player (hence the grueling work ethic behind so many of his successes), and that passion for the power of words, of words to create dialogues, and of dialogues to create whole cinematic worlds, is his defining characteristic.
After all, isn’t the very act of putting pen to paper just a more mundane way of capturing the dreams in your head before making them come to life on the big screen? The subtitle of Richard Linklater: dream is destiny is drawn from a line of dialogue found in his equally groundbreaking and hypnagogic animated art film Waking Life, and it serves as a mission statement of sorts for his entire oeuvre and endlessly curious philosophy. Major League Baseball’s loss has turned out to be the entire world of cinema’s gain.