With Respect to Richard Linklater

richard-linklaterIf I could have one wish, it’d be to interview Richard Linklater.

It’s a bit selfish to test my luck in that regard, only because you’re only granted so many wishes in life before the well runs dry, but I mean it, if I could, I’d pick that man’s brain for at least an hour.

There are only a few directors in Hollywood right now who can release a film and keep me waiting on the edge of my seat for it to be released, and there are few directors who can demand enough interest to seek their films out relentlessly. Even though I thought the “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” twosome were perfect, when Linklater announced “Before Midnight,” I didn’t doubt the man for a minute.

Even when he misses, he’s still a vibrant and enthusiastic storyteller with a style all his own. I mean “The Bad News Bears” may have been a lackluster remake, but “School of Rock” was a unique and raucous bit of mainstream fodder that showed audience how charming Jack Black can be with the right director crafting his comedy behind the camera. I’d love to sit down with the man not just because of the company he keeps (Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Nicky Katt, Ethan Hawke), it’s because the man’s writing is utterly fantastic.

Often flawless. I’ve yet to see a film from him that didn’t garner some sense of sheer entertainment and insight from me. Linklater’s films require attention and demand from his audience, they’re wonderfully written save for a few hitches along the road. For every “The Bad News Bears” and “The Newton Boys” he doles out, there are three more “Waking Life,” and “Before Sunrise” from Linklater on the way, and often times he’ll stray from the arthouse to give the mainstream a whack and then thankfully come back to the world of film where his talents are best implemented.

“Waking Life” is still one of the most mind blowing films I’ve ever seen, and it’s one that challenged me, and kept me second thinking myself and my entire sense of reality. Talking to that brilliant bastard would truly make this man’s life worthwhile. Even his first mainstream effort is still widely considered to be an arthouse drama with a mainstream gloss, mainly because it kept true to the teen spirit, while also channeling Linklater’s formula of watching characters simply bounce from one event to the other without any rigid course to follow.Dazed and Confused” is one of my all time favorite dramedies, a worthy classic rock masterpiece, with a brilliant soundtrack to boot, Linklater trots out many up and comers through the film, while exposing us to charming actors that would later go behind the screen or remain in the underground.

Not since “Saturday Night Fever” has one genre of music clashed so naturally. “Dazed and Confused” is a pure unadulterated take off from “American Graffiti” chronicling the last night of a group of high schoolers before summer. All the typical Linklater regulars can be found here like Adam Goldberg, Matthew McConaughey, and Jason London. SubUrbia” is not my favorite from Linklater, but did show what kind of storyteller he had potential to grow in to. A few people who saw this said Linklater perfectly reflected the pointless efforts of small towners looking to break free from their surroundings, and fight the inevitable.

But I just couldn’t find anything interesting in this. From the bland melodrama, the cheesy murder mystery halfway in, or the sense of futility, I just couldn’t enjoy this as much as Linklater’s other films. Granted, there are very good performances, but this is one of his weaker entries. “Waking Life” is a film I’ve seen perhaps ten times, and I always manage to pick up something new from it. I was originally attracted to it by Linklater’s name, and was rather stunned to discover it was animated. Then I was equally taken aback to learn it has zero plot.

It’s a philosophical existentialist fantasy about a young boy drifting in and out of different dream sequences. No matter how hard he tries, he just can’t wake up, and he eventually bumps into one or more folks and engages in utterly engrossing and rather elaborate conversations about life, and the state of being. Look out for the cameos by Nicky Katt, Adam Goldberg, and Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy who reprise their roles as Jesse and Celine. This is brain candy, pure and simple.

Through the good and bad, Linklater is just an artist. Every film he gives American movie-goers ensures a memorable piece of work, and I’ve been a fan for a long time, and have spent much time emulating the kind of characters he’s fond of drawing for his audiences. He gets put on the grill often by folks who claim he’s too verbose and heavy handed, but I was attracted to his films because of it. He doesn’t ramble. Every piece of dialogue matter, every piece of dialogue serves some sense of importance, and I’ll be awaiting my chance to check out every new film he indulges his fans in.