Richard Linklater: dream, destiny, and daze
"The most unique property of cinema is how it lets you mold time, whether it’s over a long or a very brief period."
~ Richard Linklater
From dawn to well past dusk this past Tuesday, the Sundance Film Festival busied itself paying homage to that most singular of Independent Filmmakers, Richard Linklater.
The Texas kid who jumpstarted the Austin film scene and gave us such indie classics as "Slacker" — which completely dazzled Sundance in 1991 — "Dazed and Confused," the "Before Sunrise," "Before Sunset," "Before Midnight" trilogy, "School of Rock," "A Scanner Darkly," and the recent multi-Oscar-nominated "Boyhood" among other gems, had a festival day like few others.
Kicking off the festivities with a mid-day premiere at The Library Center venue, the documentary "Richard Linklater — Dream is Destiny" took film buffs on a process-oriented journey from screenplay through director’s cut following a true-to-oneself creative career that not only few can match but that launched others in its wake.
Configured by two of his longtime friends, Austin artistic movers-and-shakers Louis Black and Karen Bernstein, the film follows Linklater’s feature-film history of dramatizing what he terms "the youth rebellion continuum." Utilizing archival production footage, the film provides an insider’s POV while baring layers both poignant and hilarious.
Although it’s impossible to truly understand the courage it takes to make the relatively meager-budgeted films he continually puts out there, spending film-time with this quiet wunderkind-turned-master while he goes about his daily creative routine is helpful to that end. Plus the love the filmmakers feel toward him radiates through the manner of their editing decisions.
Black, a Sundance vet with the Peabody Award winning "The Order of Myths" under his belt, had co-founded the local alternative rag The Austin Chronicle before, in 1987, helping to kick off the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and gathering, where he continues to serve as Senior Director.
Bernstein, with director credits for "Are the Kids Alright?" and the Emmy Award-winning "Producing Light," also serves as a producer for PBS’s American Masters, where she won an Emmy for an Ella Fitzgerald film and a Grammy for the ’98 Sundance film "Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart."
As you might have surmised, PBS’s American Masters is where "Richard Linklater — Dream is Destiny" will be heading following its run at Sundance. And rightfully so, I might add.
And that brings us, later in this quite auspicious day, to a Sundance Film Festival event of epic proportions: the late-night screening up on Main Street at the Egyptian Theater of Linklater’s classic "Dazed and Confused" with both the filmmaker and his good buddy (and, in a sense, protégé) Jason Reitman sitting side-by-side with microphones in the audience while trading insider comments on the film-in-question and whatever off-the-wall sidebars raised their head.
Young Reitman, son of Ivan (producer of "Animal House" and director of "Ghostbuster," etc.), became a Sundance vet almost too early with 2006’s "Thank You For Smoking." The same could also be said for the Academy Award nominations for the two feature films that followed, "Juno" and "Up in the Air."
It was Jason who came up with what turned out to be the quite-well-received concept of screening "Dazed" with live commentary and who kept the shuck-and-jive rolling. Tickets were at a premium all week long and the crowd that showed up had their slacker-stoner-kegger game faces firmly in place. They were hip to why they were there — it was a celebration of a cult film that had become a classic, and not much got by them.
As the closing shot filled the screen and the crowd prepared to erupt, Jason leaned over to Richard one more time and his whisper filled the theater: "Thanks for this film and thanks for your career." The joint went nuts in collective solidarity. Richard Linklater had been truly celebrated by the festival and fans that had been with him from the beginning.
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Jamila Wignot’s documentary “Ailey,” which will premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, peels back the layers to find the man behind the dances.