Finding Jewels With Richard Linklater
Director's AFS series celebrating 80s cinema returns tonight
By Richard Whittaker,
5:04PM, Wed. May 8, 2019
It was the best of times, it was the worst of time. While there's a lot of romanticization of Eighties cinema, the era that brought us E.T. also spawned Mac & Me. Yet this was also a time of undeniable underground and unrecognized classics that Richard Linklater has been highlighting in his annual Jewels in the Wasteland series.
Linklater started the series in 2014 as a way to highlight what if often written off as a lull between the golden era of independent cinema in the 1970s, and its rebirth in the Spike, Mike, Slackers & Dykes 1990s (as chronicled in John Pierson's book of the same name). Over the last few years, Linklater has broken down the decade into multi-year blocks, this time around he's leapt around to find some of the most unfairly forgotten titles that deserve another unspooling on the big screen.
• May 8: The series kicks off with Bill Forsyth's gentle indictment of corporate culture, Local Hero (1983), as rising oil executive Peter Riegert is won over by the rough-hewn charms of a Scottish Village.
• May 13: A timely revival of Agnes Varda's Vagabond (1985), a unique road movie through the countryside and cities of France.
• May 15: Another road trip, but this time Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty get Lost in America (1985) as they misguidedly swap their comfortable middle class life for life in an RV.
• May 20: Wayne Wang's overlooked neo-noir Chan is Missing (1982) was both a document of San Francisco life and of the Asian-American experience, and is presented here in collaboration with the Austin Asian American Film Festival.
• May 22: John Sayles' Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980) is a landmark in American cinema: With its ensemble story of 20-somethings trying to work out what went wrong, it presaged everything from The Big Chill to Friends.
• May 29 Finally, Alan Rudolph's Choose Me (1984) is a neon-drenched romantic fantasy, like One From the Heart with fewer musical numbers.
Tickets and details for all screenings are available at austinfilm.org.
Of course, the opportunity to see these movies (many on 35mm) is only part of the appeal of the series. There's also the chance to see Linklater's introductions and post-screening discussions. Luckily Austin Film Society has recorded all of these, and placed them online at their YouTube page. From Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters to Drugstore Cowboy, from the grandeur of Reds to the intimacy of Barfly, it's Linklater exploring and contextualizing an entire era of cinema. Here's the Oscar-nominated filmmaker in conversation with AFS programmer Lars Nilsen about Sam Fuller's controversial classic White Dog from that very first 2014 season.