Friday, January 9, 2015

"You don't want bumpers. Life don't give you bumpers."

Last night I attended "An Evening with Richard Linklater," a conversation between Linklater and LACMA film series curator Elvis Mitchell, punctuated by clips from Boyhood, the making of Boyhood (shot by Patricia Arquette), Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy, Waking Life, and School of Rock.  They also talked about Linklater films I haven't yet seen:  The Newton Boys, Bernie, The Bad News Bears.  I hadn't even realized that Linklater had directed The Bad News Bears or School of Rock.  Although the conversation concentrated on the writer-director's thematic obsessions--time passing, memory--I was struck by the realization of Linklater's range, his quiet experimentation, his almost effortless ("slacker"?) "auteurness."  He was so relaxed, articulate, discursive, and unpretentious, that I thought, wow, he would wonderful to hang out with in Austin with a beer and some BBQ and music for an afternoon.

There's a wonderful interview with Linklater's daughter Lorelei (right, who played Ellar Coltrane' sister in Boyhood) in the Patricia Arquette "making of" film, in which Lorelei (sporting a temp tattoo on her cheek) admits that she was kind of bored with Waking Life--"Not to be insulting, Daddy."

Here are some highlights from the evening:

Linklater talked about being "allergic" to plotting in screenplays.  Instead he said replaces plot with "time structure"--and his stories are usually open-ended.  "Plot isn't really missed...if there's something else to grab you."

One of Linklater's influences is Scorsese--Linklater noted how, in Raging Bull, the director "created space" by giving/allowing supporting cast members like Joe Pesci little details that they most likely came up with on their own.  "The director in me," Linklater admitted, "fires the writer real early."  He believes that collaboration is the real nature of film.  And he went on to speak of his collaborations with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and his long time editor Sandra Adair.

Waking Life was based on a series of lucid dreams that Linklater had at age 18; when he was introduced to the technology for the film, rotoscoping, it allowed him to tell the story by giving form to an unformed narrative.

Boyhood came out of an intent to write a novel about childhood.  The first thing that came to Linklater was the title.  But he needed to find the form, the way to tell it.  He said he sat down at his keyboard to start the novel and the title just came to him, and he suddenly knew it was a movie.  He always knew that the story would end with the boy going off to college.  And his second year into shooting, Linklater knew the last scene before it was scripted.  It was "planned out but not all scripted."

Linklater said that he wanted Boyhood "to feel like the memory of a childhood....Childhood ending by a thousand blows."  (Twice the director mentioned his admiration of Truffaut and The 400 Blows.)

Elvis Mitchell noted that Linklater's films seem very much about "being in the moment."  Linklater nodded in acknowledgment, thoughtful.

Then the director also posited the world of cinema as a "parallel world" --a kind of antidote to the "adult world that is there to tear you down from the fun years"--ages 18 to 25.  As he said this, he looked wistful.

I wanted to buy him a Lone Star.

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