July 25, 2014

Film Friday: Director Richard Linklater

In anticipation of seeing his film Boyhood this evening, I wanted a space to ruminate on the work of Director Richard Linklater.

Perhaps best cited for his 90s film, Dazed and Confuzed, Linklater has made his name known in the independent film circles.  I have not seen that film, though, so it's on my to-watch list, along with his animated film Waking Life.  Hopefully that doesn't make me unqualified to talk about how his work has affected me.

Because honestly, if they are anything like his "Before" trilogy, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, I might just be in for something great.  This series of three films stole my heart this summer.  They effortlessly captured a "truth," that may seem overwrought in some audience members' eyes, but which spoke deeply to me about how random life can be -- and the benefits of being susceptible to said randomness.

The premise of Before Sunrise (1995) intrigued the hopeless romantic in me.  Boy meets girl on a train.  Girl does not go running and screaming in the other direction.  Boy and girl spends day wandering and talking together in a European city.  Throughout its duration (conveniently the time before midnight), I am cheering for the two leads to fully experience their evening together.  The location and glorious settings are merely backdrops for the couple, who remain a pinnacle focus for the entire film.  As such, audiences can connect deeply with their dialogue.  This fact proves the skill of Linklater's writing and gall to think that a film like this would be entertaining enough.  All the other elements are spot-on.  The ending was slightly gimmicky, clearly angling for a sequel.

But my complaining stops there, since Linklater's Before Sunset (2004) was an excellent follow-up to the first.  As soon as the two leads share the screen, we are presented with a similar engrossing technique that is just as successful the second time around.  Linklater shows he knows what he's doing. I hungrily listen to the stories that Jesse and Celine tell, trying to fill in the seven-year-long blank that Linklater created between the two installments.  The characters become even more fleshed out through the details they reveal (and those they don't).  This style once again could be perceived as boring and unimportant, seen as having no place in a film.  Yet from my perspective, it was a smart and realistic approach to telling a story about life and two strangers who are pulled together in life's current.  The banter feels authentic, and the steadiness of the camera on Jesse and Celine, both simultaneously engulfing the frame with their ideas, passions and compassion for one another is excellent.  Linklater had a clear vision and his artistic genius cannot be questioned.  But can he do it a third time?

Before Midnight (2013) opened and poured salt in wounds in me that I didn't even know I had.  Picking up nine years later, we get to meet Celine and Jesse as a committed couple.  In the very beginning, they are less of the focus, until the car scene in which their infamous back-and-forth exchanger resume.  The interactions now seem tinged with an even more "this is life, beautiful and messy" tone.  Hmm, that feeling may too intangible to describe.  The last act of the film echoed some of the conversations that my parents have had, and there's almost nothing as surreal as practically seeing someone you know and their habits being portrayed on screen.  Although there are other nitpicky comments I could make about this third film, I disagree with Shelby that it was negative for negativity's sake.  The way it crescendos mirrors life's fluctuations and I think it's a breath of fresh air knowing that not everything is coming up roses, even when you are sharing the journey with someone who understands you, cares for you and longs for you.

Falling in love with these films, with a story that nearly destroyed me and my spirit, makes me unbelievably excited to see what critics are claiming is his masterwork tonight.  I have a strong sense it will get under my skin…in the best way possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment