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Richard Linklater and the VHS Generation

“He sort of won the race, didn’t he? Through sheer persistence, consistency and focus. And longevity. He’s a poet who just kept going. When people would say of Before Sunrise that it reminded them of an English-language Rohmer film, I’d go, ‘Well, that’s very flattering, but I don’t think he’d ever make a film that simple.’ My work is so much simpler than his. I give him more credit than that.”

— Richard Linklater, on the death of Eric Rohmer in 2010

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What most intrigues me about the genuinely humble tribute from one master to another I’ve cited above is the notion that Richard Linklater thinks Eric Rohmer “won” a “race” without elaborating on exactly which race that might be. I can only imagine that the director of Before Midnight had the story of the tortoise and the hare in mind when he made that remark and that he saw Rohmer as being analogous to the slow-but-steady turtle and most of his compatriots in the French New Wave as being frenetic rabbits: Rohmer may have in many ways been the “slowest starter” (i.e., the least commercial or intellectually fashionable) of the major nouvelle vague filmmakers during the 1960s but his body of work as a whole arguably ended up being more impressive in the long run. It’s also hard for me to imagine that Linklater isn’t revealing something about his own career in that remark — even if only subconsciously. Critics, after all, often lump Linklater in with Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith as constituting a “VHS Generation” — a group of American filmmakers who never graduated from college (in pointed contrast to the celebrated “Film School Generation” of the 1970s) but who educated themselves about film history via home video in the 1980s before directing their first independently made breakthrough features in the early-to-mid 1990s. While Linklater may indeed have been the least flashy of that particular group during the Nineties (Dazed and Confused developed an almost-instant cult following but it didn’t make its writer/director a “star” in the manner of a Tarantino or a Smith), it seems inarguable to me that he has the most impressive filmography from the vantage point of the year 2013. He and Anderson are the only directors of the bunch who I would cite as actually having significantly improved in the 21st century.

So here’s why I consider Richard Linklater the most important filmmaker of his generation:

1. His work is more profitably rooted in a specific sense of place.

Unlike most contemporary American directors, whose movies either might as well be taking place anywhere or are set in pop culture-infused Neverlands of their own imaginations, Linklater’s work stems, culturally as well as geographically, from deep in the heart of his home state of Texas (he’s a native Houstonian). As Martin Scorsese is to New York, as Alain Guiraudie is to the southwest of France, so too is Richard Linklater to Texas: Slacker, Dazed and Confused, SubUrbia, The Newton Boys, Waking Life, Fast Food Nation, A Scanner Darkly and Bernie are all mostly set in — or were shot in — and are ultimately about communities and subcultures within the Lone Star state. It even seems significant that in the director’s beloved, European-set Before trilogy, Ethan Hawke’s Jesse hails from Austin, and thus his character can be seen as offering a kind of “Texan’s-eye-view” of cosmopolitan Austria, France and Greece, respectively. More importantly, Linklater’s films profoundly reflect the iconoclastic, often-contradictory character of Texas, which is nowhere more apparent than in Bernie, the story of a horrific real life murder that nonetheless manages to be both darkly comic and surprisingly warmhearted. Watch this hilarious clip in which Sonny Carl Davis, a native of rural Carthage (where the film is set), describes how Texas could actually be five different states:

2. He is the most knowledgable about film history while simultaneously the least likely to show off his cinephile cred.

Richard Linklater is a hardcore cinephile, which is evident throughout his life and work — from the clip of Carl Dreyer’s Gertrud included in his obscure first feature It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books in 1988 to his recent passionate defense of Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running in the book The Best Films You’ve Never Seen. And yet Linklater’s films are about “real life” (which, of course, includes cinephilia) more than simply being about other movies. In other words, in contrast to Tarantino and Rodriguez — who seem increasingly content to merely mash-up moments from their favorite grindhouse movies of their adolescence — Linklater has fully absorbed the lessons of his masters and applies them to the modern world in a way that results in something entirely fresh and new. Consider the way Julie Delpy’s Celine references Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy in Before Midnight: her lines about watching Italy‘s Pompeii scene allow Linklater to engage in a meaningful critical dialogue with Rossellini’s masterpiece (both are ultimately about the salvation of long-term relationships between couples vacationing in a foreign country); but her lines are written and performed in such an offhanded and naturalistic “I once saw this old movie on television” kind of way that the scene doesn’t alienate anyone who hasn’t seen Italy. More profoundly, when asked if he in any way emulated the visual style of Orson Welles when making his underrated 2008 biopic Me and Orson Welles, Linklater wisely replied that he hadn’t because his film was about Welles’ pre-Citizen Kane theatrical career. He then added that he was more influenced by John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln since the scenario of both movies hinges on a sophisticated manipulation of the viewers’ knowledge of the “future greatness” of their subjects. Contrast this with the way Quentin Tarantino used his Django Unchained World Domination Tour to denigrate the career of John Ford (and showed a startling ignorance of Ford’s work in the process). One should also note that Linklater’s education in film history came mostly on film instead of VHS — his interest in moviemaking was spurred by repeated visits to a Houston repertory theater and he founded the Austin Film Society in 1985 in order to bring more diverse cinema fare to Austin.

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3. He is the most formally innovative director of his generation.

Linklater is a formal innovator who has impressively managed to make his innovations accessible to a wide variety of audiences. Slacker, which borrowed its narrative-relay structure from Luis Bunuel’s The Phantom of Liberty, was shot on a budget of just over $20,000 and almost single-handedly spearheaded an independent filmmaking renaissance in America when it was released in 1991. Tape (2001), a gripping adaptation of Stephen Belber’s single-setting play, was shot on miniDV tape — thus adding another layer of meaning to the title (in addition to its referencing an audio-recording that prominently features in the plot); in an era when everyone else wanted to make video seem like film, Linklater intriguingly chose to emphasize Tape‘s video origins, incorporating the graininess of the digital-to-film transfer into his sleazy motel-room visual design. Both Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006) pioneered “rotoscoping” animation (with its trippy, undulating textures), which can now be seen in television commercials for large corporations. But Linklater’s greatest formal innovations probably result from his experiments in structuring narratives around real-time sequences. Because he has always favored philosophical dialogue over physical action, Linklater typically also favors long takes to fast cutting, and many of his movies consequently take place over the course of a single day: Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, SubUrbia, Tape, Waking Life, Before Sunset and Before Midnight all take place in a span of less than 24 hours. Additionally, Tape and Before Sunset are among the few feature films in the history of cinema that take place entirely in real time. The apotheosis of Linklater’s style can be found in Before Midnight, in which the lack of cutting and the choreography between the camera and the performers seem so organic to the material and achieve such a perfect sense of harmony that the film’s ostensible European-style “art-film” aesthetic has deservedly found success among general audiences — as if it were a more typical American-style rom-com.

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And all of this is to say nothing of Linklater’s skills as a writer (the progress of which can be charted from the way his characters have evolved from charming-but-irresponsible adolescent autodidacts to charming-but-mature and sensitive adults) and as a director of actors (he is particularly good at directing children and non-actors — see again the extraordinary School of Rock — and his seven-films-and-counting collaboration with Ethan Hawke must surely rank as one of the most fruitful director-actor partnerships of modern times).

Below is my subjective countdown, from worst to best, of all of Richard Linklater’s feature films. In case it isn’t obvious from the rankings, I believe Linklater’s art underwent a quantum leap in terms of quality between the 1998 release of The Newton Boys and the 2001 releases of Waking Life and Tape (both of which premiered at that year’s Sundance Film Festival):

17. It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988)
16. SubUrbia (1996)
15. Bad News Bears (2005)
14. The Newton Boys (1998)
13. Fast Food Nation (2006)
12. Tape (2001)
11. Me and Orson Welles (2008)
10. Slacker (1991)
9. Before Sunrise (1995)
8. Waking Life (2001)
7. School of Rock (2003)
6. Dazed and Confused (1993)
5. Bernie (2011)
4. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
3. Before Midnight (2013)
2. Before Sunset (2004)
1. Boyhood (2014)

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About michaelgloversmith

Filmmaker, author and Film Studies instructor. View all posts by michaelgloversmith

59 responses to “Richard Linklater and the VHS Generation

  • Ryan Preston

    Nice piece, Mike. For me, part of Linklater’s excellence stems from the wide range and diversity of his work–rather comparable to Soderbergh, I’d say.

  • Bowls

    Dude,. Enough with the Dick Linklater already. He’s so Goddamn overrated.

  • Chris

    I like Linklater and I understand why anyone would want to make an argument for him being at the top of his class. However, there is something I don’t understand about your argument, and it has to do with Linklater’s films being the one’s most rooted in a sense of place. While I’m not the biggest fan of Tarantino (although I am an ardent admirer of PTA), to imply that their films aren’t as deeply rooted in Los Angeles speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding of what Los Angeles really is and how it can be represented in film, and it highlights a very parochial and naive attitude the rest of the country seems to have about Los Angeles being a non-place. As someone born and raised in Los Angeles, I can assure you that Tarantino and Anderson understand this city as well as Linklater understands Austin and the other sundry small Texas town his sets his films. Place manifests itself in ways other than just physical setting. There is an atmosphere, an ethos to a place, and it permeates every frame of QT’s and PTA’s films.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks for the reply, Chris. You are absolutely right about PTA and L.A. I tried not to bring PTA into the discussion too much because I do have a lot of respect for him (as I tried to make clear in my opening paragraph) and I was more interested in contrasting Linklater with Tarantino, Rodriguez and Smith. However, while I think Jackie Brown, my favorite QT film, uses L.A. locations to great effect, I don’t know how much I agree about the rest of his films being “rooted” in L.A. My line about “pop-culture infused Neverlands” was aimed squarely at QT: I would argue that most of what counts as “atmosphere” in his films stems from his experience of working in a video store and educating himself about film history on VHS. I think Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained could’ve been made by anyone with a similar cultural background (regardless of the city in which they may have happened to have grown up).

  • Susan Doll

    I became a fan of LInklater’s as soon as I walked out of DAZED AND CONFUSED when it originally opened. He is a terrific regional filmmaker, which is not the same as filmmakers who capture/depict major urban areas like New York or L.A., so I know what you are saying. While the latter may indeed reflect the atmosphere of L.A. or NYC, regionalists are interested in the specific roots, history, and culture of a specific part of country as a way to explore and explain why the people are the way they are –and to celebrate it. Regional filmmakers were much bigger in the 1980s, but now the movement lacks the support of major distributors and exhibitors. Florida does a lot to support regional filmmakers, probably because of the influence of native son Victor Nunez.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Great point about regional filmmaking, Suzi. I too became a fan of Linklater’s after seeing Dazed and Confused upon its initial release. It was the first movie I saw in the theater upon moving to Chicago (from North Carolina) when I was just a wee lad of 18.

  • robchristopher

    Reblogged this on RandomCha and commented:
    Quite an insightful take on on Linklater. Gotta move BERNIE to the top of my queue now …

  • Garrett

    Reading the Film Comment article on QT/John Ford was fascinating and it really exposes the different levels of understanding between Tarantino and Linklater. Especially with those such as Django Unchained, Tarantino so often comes across as a mere imitator and I think you make an excellent point saying that Linklater implements his knowledge of cinema into his films much differently, and ultimately more rewardingly, than Tarantino or Rodriguez or Smith.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks, Garrett. The more time goes by, the more I dislike seeing the kind of “homages” where shots are recreated exactly, lines of dialogue are quoted verbatim, etc. It’s like filmmaking as making mix-tapes.

  • The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of July 5 | Parallax View

    […] Michael Glover Smith gathers a few good reasons to agree with his selection of Richard Linklater as the director of his generation; the most quietly compelling being that Linklater displays all the necessary cinephile bone fides while making films enthralled by the vagaries of life, not just other movies. Via Adam Cook. […]

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    … [Trackback]

    […] Informations on that Topic: whitecitycinema.com/2013/07/01/richard-linklater-and-the-vhs-generation/ […]

  • Top Ten Films of 2013 | White City Cinema

    […] Richard Linklater cemented his status as the best and most interesting American director of his generation with this near-perfect third and final installment of his celebrated “Before” trilogy. It has been nine years(!) since Before Sunset, which closed with Celine (Julie Delpy) telling Jesse (Ethan Hawke) he was going to “miss that plane” while she seductively danced to Nina Simone and the screen slowly faded to black. To say that cinephile expectations were high after that sublime tease of an ending is an understatement. That Linklater and his lead actors and co-authors Delpy and Hawke were able to not just meet but exceed expectations with Before Midnight is something of a miracle. It helps that they didn’t merely repeat the formula of the first two films — this is not a romantic comedy centered on a chance meeting or unexpected reunion featuring a suspenseful deadline-structure. Linklater instead drops in on the now-married characters while they vacation in Greece with their children, allowing him to show the realities — joyful as well as painful (as in the incendiary climactic hotel-room fight) — of being in a long-term monogamous relationship. His models Eric Rohmer and Roberto Rossellini would no doubt be proud. Full review here. More thoughts here. Director profile here. […]

  • Now Playing: Boyhood | White City Cinema

    […] he has seemingly been working towards for his entire career. Last year, I wrote that Before Midnight established Linklater as the best director of his generation. It is no exaggeration to say that Boyhood establishes him as America’s finest working […]

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  • Sarah Feiger

    While watching “Slacker” I was reminded of the film “My Dinner With Andre.” Even though the films are separated by a decade, it sort of felt like “Slacker” was just picking back up the conversation but with all these new people, in this new setting. Instead of sitting down for a classic dinner, everyone kept movie, kept going, even though no one really had anywhere to be.

    I think that Linklater managed to make just as philosophical a film, but have it more approachable. I think this was in part because of the movement, the shifting and interacting characters.

    I thought the lack of a sound track, and only diegetic sounds in the background which where often not musical, was neat. It felt natural, not like there was anything missing. I think this was in part because everything else about the film is so strongly set in Austen. It made it seem only logical that the sounds of Austen played such a prominent role.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Sarah, calling SLACKER a more-approachable version of MY DINNER W/ ANDRE is very apt! The fact that the characters are constantly moving even though they have nowhere to be is tied to Linklater’s narrative strategy of constantly moving from one character to the next. The film itself is wandering and aimless just like its subjects.

  • Angelo Belen

    Although the structure of the movie seems to have no plot, Linklater labels the characters in the film as hippies, bohemians, longhairs, peaceniks, weirdos or the Union Regulars. I feel like he wants to watch these people and listen for what they have to say but not get involved in their lives. As a different class of American life, we never really pay attention to it in the movie.
    Even though the movie is a little too long, the point of the movie is not based on what is said, but the tone of voice, the word choices, the conversations the sense of life going on all the time. In a conventional Hollywood movie, the characters repeat the few phrases given by the screenplay, they walk down streets and sometimes I want to be separated from them, cut across a lawn, walk through the wall of a house, and go through lives of people living there. “Slacker” is a movie that gives that freedom

  • Jessica Gordon

    As “Slacker” being one of Linklaters earlier films in his filmmaking career it’s very interesting to see his progression in filmmaking and maybe even how alike his techniques are still to this day. He portrayed a day in the life of people who were out of college already or maybe didn’t even go. Some seemed like low lives aimlessly walking around trying to find their purpose.

    I was interested in how Linklater filmed a couple people and than focused it on the new person who came into play, once that new people started their journey the camera followed. It was consistent and then it wasn’t in the fact that he had the same routine for each actor/actress but he never filmed them for too long.

    I think “Slacker” was very down to earth and real, like all of Linklaters films. I’ve really grown to like him and appreciate his work now that I know more about him. I actually had better expectations for “Slacker” and I thought it was going to be a lot different but I think his point came across pretty clearly, that things can be simple and still be pretty cool!

    • michaelgloversmith

      I like your description of how the camera continually jumps from one subject to another depending on whom a given character might cross paths with. The narrative is almost like a relay race in that regard — with the characters continually passing the “baton” to someone else.

  • Roger Levy

    I find that “Slacker” presented a huge impact on people everyday. Instead of it being one protagonist up against an antagonist, or a romance between two lovers, it was a story on view points. He was the first person to even appear in the movie. He talked about the choices he made on taking a taxi or taking the bus, and states “What if this occurred” for each one.

    I find it interesting that it seemed to be focused on connections with the people. Not counting the beginning, one character interacted with two other characters. This occurred for when the character was introduced it showed him interacting with the previous character, then before they depart they meet another character which goes to their view point. No character seemed to be the center attention for the whole film.

    This could be compared to life in high school. When we enter a new school, we have questions to be answered. They are what clubs will I join, will I fit in, will I make friends or gain enemies, will I have good grades, will I find romance. These are all choices here. The characters interacted with other characters due to the choices that they made. This is what makes high school full of drama. It all has results due to “this choice” being the one that was made.

    Linklater not only made a film when he was young, but also was the first person to appear in it. As it seemed to be about connections, that’s what made this film. I find it interesting to see how some scenes got very serious, such as the murder, the bar to a night club, or even the scene with the person with a collection of televisions. I’m impressed that he was able to film many different parts with the emotion faced in them.

    The film “Mr. Nobody” was what would have happened to a single character based on choices from divorced parents. While the two films are similar, Slacker is about one path done with no character on screen two long. The character in Mr. Nobody revealed the choices, but did not state which one happened until the end. This also occurs in boyhood(also directed by linklater). Mason jr. had many events that left him from an innocent child, to a teenager that is bad. Again, this occurred from parents being divorced.

    Overall, the film is about people in general. What can happen in one town. It can be a simple thing such as taking a trip, meeting someone new, or something serious like murder or attempting burglary. The message I believe that Linklater is giving is what happens in the world in the eyes of many people.

    • michaelgloversmith

      I’m glad you noted Linklater’s own performance in the first scene of the film. Not only is his monologue about alternate realities hilarious, it also perfectly sets up the narrative structure of the film — since it’s one in which the narrative is continually “forking off” into different stories. It’s easy to imagine each one of these brief segments being its own feature film, no?

  • Jenn Pariso

    I admire this article for many reasons. You really express your love for Linklater and I appreciate the way you choose to show your appreciation. Linklater truly is an incredible, humble and innovative director. I agreed wholeheartedly to everything you stated in your third point. Personally, I have overlooked his talent. After seeing Boyhood this summer I found myself asking the question, who directed this? A question I normally don’t ask. I only asked it because I was truly moved by this beautifully directed piece of art. Needless to say, I have become a huge fan of Linklater and not just of his work but simply because hes such a cool guy. The documentary we watched two weeks back really moved me in way I didn’t think “a conversation,” could move me. Linklater is someone I could sit and listen to all day talking about his views because he is so innovative.

    To recap from last class on his movie, “Slacker” I was not a fan right after watching it. On the ride home, I was thinking about the film. I started to admire the way he capture the annoyance of side conversations and made it film about how people just go about their days in their own way, no matter what. Only someone like Linklater can get away with devoting a 97 minute movie of something like that and make it entertaining.I personally feel Slacker would of been better if Linklater stayed in the film. My favorite part of the entire film was the first scene. It was brilliant, raw and extremely relatable. I want to thank you for structuring this class so we get to appreciate directors like Linklater. I am Looking forward to watching Before Sunset tomorrow.

    • michaelgloversmith

      “The annoyance of side conversations” is a great way to describe SLACKER! So many of those characters are annoying and yet, because we only drop in on them for brief periods of time, the scenes usually end up being really funny.

  • Kelly McGowan

    I really do see where you’re coming from in regards to why Linklater is one of this generation’s best filmmakers, and I wholeheartedly agree. His work is most certainly rooted in a sense of place. In “Slacker,” through a series of unconnected conversations via random young and old citizens during a 24-hour period, I think I really got the feel of 1991 Austin, Texas, where the film is centered. As an audience member watching the camera and focus turn from one conversation to another, I felt as though I was walking the streets of Austin, not really participating, but eavesdropping on the other slackers’ conversations. Linklater doesn’t dramatize, glamorize, or sugar-coat the town at all, he gives it a sense of reality and believable-ness to his films that I think any 20-something can relate to.

    The contrast that you keep making between Tarantino and Linklater proves that the auteur theory is true. Both directors are considered cinephiles and are knowledgeable about film, but show it off in completely opposite ways. While Tarantino makes movies about other movies, I agree that, while Linklater is clearly knowledgeable about film (which was seen in the documentary we watched “Double Play”), he makes movies about real life while simultaneously utilizing said knowledge. His approach to filmmaking is more understated and less in-your-face than Tarantino’s, but he truly has his own style. Instead of using shock value and comical gore, Richard Linklater uses philosophical dialogue and the notion of time as his signature in his films.

    Lastly, I can see how Linklater is one of this generation’s most innovative directors and sadly, one of the most overlooked. He makes his movies for himself and his signature style is evident of that. The dialogue he presents in his films is extremely intellectual and thought-provoking, which is something lacking in a lot of films today. He’s innovative in a sense that the majority of his films aren’t necessarily plot-driven, but content-driven. Each one of his movies I’ve seen has a fresh and new feel to it, as well as a sense of nostalgia. “Slacker” has seemingly no plot, but is really just the opposite. The film itself is innovative at the time because it doesn’t stick to Hollywood’s generic Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 format, and it appears to be fluid, with the transitions between anecdotes are nearly flawless.

  • Brian Campbell

    Linklater’s slacker was probably one of the most different films i have ever seen, its lack of plot and lack of established characters was definitely different. I’m still deciding whether I like it or not. However, It is clear after watching this film that Linklater has a very unique style. Looking at his other movies like Boyhood, School of Rock, and Dazed and Confused, every movie has characters that will often get lost telling a story, and the very conversational dialogue make the viewer comfortable. even though many of the stories don’t seem to go anywhere, like the various rants on purpose and humanity in boyhood, they give a great insight into the values and personality of the characters. this is especially true of Slacker, even though you only get a little bit of time with each character, the viewer can develop the characters and “get to know them” through the stories and rants of these nameless, random characters. but while they are all nameless and random. I still remember many of the characters for their interesting stories. That truly is the magic of Linklater’s Slacker.

  • Chelsea Hale-Delao

    Watching “Slacker” by Richard Linklater really proved to the film world that there are so many different styles of directing. There is no set ground work per say that one must follow in order to make a film. Now that I have seen “Slacker” I felt it was all over the place and very confusing as a viewer to follow. Although, it was cool in a sense to see all these different stories that were being told and focus on a variety of characters instead of just one main character and his\her family and friends. Even though Linklater likes different, I applaud that, but this movie was not for me. Now that I am familiar with a few of Richard Linklater’s films I can truly say he has a very creative style. His creation “Boyhood” did a magnificent job at capturing a unique story and told it in a creative way of over a 12 year span. I absolutely loved this film and the fact that the viewers could actually watch the main character and his family grow up over 12 years was amazing! Linklater’s films always give off that vibe that ‘hey, nobody has ever done this before, let me try it!’ and I think that’s what he loves to strive for. He’s a mastermind and he’s going to keep creating his masterpieces!

  • Jessica Schwartzwald

    I truly agree that Richard Linklater is the most innovative filmmaker of his time. His wide array of works is groundbreaking. Although we have not yet watched it in class, I saw Boyhood multiple times in theaters last summer and studied its production extensively online. What makes Linklater’s films go beyond others is the importance of time in each setting. I think this helps his stories feel more real to the viewer. In Before Sunset, we spend 83 minutes listening to a conversation between Jesse and Celine. During these 83 minutes, there are moments we feel scared, rushed, suspenseful, and even out of breath, as if we’re right there in the shot. The concept of “real time” helps us to be a part of the story, causing us to connect with the characters on a much deeper level. You mention Linklater’s emphasis on setting in his films, which I think is very important to the realism his characters portray. Consistency and emphasis on a certain city or town (usually in Texas) brings much relevance to the average viewer’s experiences, which in real life are often determined by one’s location. Richard Linklater has such a talent for depicting all of these things in his work, but his greatest talent is his ability to take a simple story and make it feel truthful, relevant, and relatable to filmgoers all around the world.

    • michaelgloversmith

      Thanks for being the first to take the plunge, Jessica. I’m glad you mentioned Linklater’s attention to setting, which is so important – not just place but also weather and time of day. BEFORE SUNSET is a great film about people but it’s also an almost documentary-like view of people within a very specific setting (i.e., Paris during an unusually hot summer in the late afternoon). 10/10

  • Ariel Notterman

    I like how you mentioned that even though Richard Linklater’s films are innovative and artistic, they are still successful among American audiences that are used to more traditional narratives. I think it has to do with the realistic characters in his films, like in BEFORE SUNSET. The audience becomes comfortable with Linklater’s characters because they are so real and relatable. It feels like we are overhearing a real conversation rather than watching a film. At one point while I was watching BEFORE SUNSET, I felt like I was intruding on Jessie and Celine’s lives, sort of guilty for being a part of their intimate moments. But then I realized that the beauty of this Linklater film is that I felt so close to the characters in the first place. So close that my conscious told me to stop eavesdropping!

    The dialogue between the two characters is genius. You noted that Linklater is knowledgeable about film history, but judging by the conversations in his films, he seems to be knowledgeable about a lot of subjects! His complex (though sometimes pretentious) ideas are conveyed through his characters, and because the audience feels comfortable with these characters, they absorb the communicated ideas. For example, Celine and Jessie talk about deep subjects such as the environment, spirituality, and fate in BEFORE SUNSET, making the audience think about these subjects and each character’s opinion on them. This sort of reminds me of the melodrama genre convention where the audience is roped in by lovable characters and a great story, only to be fed a deeper message criticizing society.

    Richard Linklater’s films are so refreshing to watch. He plays with time and it’s effect on people and relationships, creating stories that are not so different from our own. People learn by listening to and observing other people, and Linklater uses that tactic in his films to teach real-life lessons through powerful characters.

  • Alex Ryan

    Richard Linklater is different from the rest of his generation. He does use a wider variety of techniques from studying his peers than the rest of his generation that he shares with. Of this generation he shares with standouts like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith. Except his work is not even like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith. Unlike Quentin Tarantino’s action movie’s (Django: Unchained & Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) that utilize tools and techniques that have already been done before. Linklater will attempt to play on positive human emotions to gather the audience’s interest like the idea behind School of Rock or the humor of Bernie. Another example of Linklater’s innovative genius is how he will take a simple idea that has never been done before because nobody has attempted to do it, like in Boyhood. He’s more like Kevin Smith in my view, but with more nostalgia, meaningful plots that have the sole purpose of leaving an actual impression on someone, and characters that can leave an impression without it seeming scripted (Before Sunset).

  • Nathan Anderson

    Unfortunately, as humanity has slowly spiraled down the path of developing a much shorter attention span (resulting in everything from movies to commercials needing to be high-paced and quick to the point), there are no longer an abundance of movies that present the style that Linklater has shown in his movies. For some, venturing to the movie theater is only done to see the explosive, guns blazing type movies that often have no substance (because when the point of the movie is to have some sort of substantial story line to it, why not just throw that out of the window and put more guns in, right?) and thus are just becoming simply another movie that is not distinctive from the rest. However, Linklater was able to take the risk of betting on his low-key type of style and present a much more realistic type of narrative to his audience, and boy was he successful.

    Before Sunset is a fantastic piece of cinema that is able to master the goal it has set for itself, which is to be as authentic and genuine as it possibly can. All of Linklater’s approaches to doing this are extremely impressive, whether it be the long, uncut scenes that literally have you following the characters, the crucial sense of time (which makes this movie stand out from most I’ve seen), or simply just the little intricate details that blow you away nonetheless. Something as silly as them noticing a tree branch nearly falling and hitting them, the amazing stair climb scene where there is the silence with subtly romantic vibes, or simply them interrupting their train of thought to ask which way they were going (which anyone would do in a foreign country they have not yet explored). Often times, people do not deem these little pieces of a movie worthy of acknowledgment, but they certainly do bring this movie down to earth.

    Finally, of course, there are their heartbreaking conversations in which they show their deeply engrained sadness of not having ended up together. Celine and Jessie, in their own ways, admit that they have never felt the intense passion that they invested into that night they first met. They feel that they have not been able to find anyone who could meet the standard of romanticism that they felt that night, which is a feeling that many people in the world can attest to. Unfortunately, this movie feels a lot like Lost In Translation, in the way that while you knew that they were so happy being with each other, you could also feel that this was a star-crossed relationship and would ultimately be impossible to actually transpire.

  • Pia Gräwe

    In your article you mentioned that most of Linklater’s films are somehow related to his home, Texas. I agree that this is also the case in his movie BEFORE SUNSET. Even though this movie, just like the two other parts of the “BEFORE TRILOGY” is set in Europe, the main character Jesse sees everything out of an American or Texan kind of view. For me, as a European it feels like he really is the typical American who brings a feeling of Texas to the film. In addition to that he shows his fascination or amazement for the city and for Céline’s lifestyle.

    It does not seem strange to me that Linklater’s films are popular for such a large audience. Even though his movies are not showing off a lot of action and drama they are still very entertaining just because they are so authentic. Linklater’s use of real time is not making his films boring or unadventurous but it is letting us focus on the conversations and thoughts that the characters are having. It is true that Linklater prefers his characters to have deep philosophical dialogues that reveal their personalities and struggles instead of putting as much action as possible in one movie. There is a scene in BEFORE SUNSET when Jesse and Céline are sitting in the car which reveals a lot about both their lives and their feelings. In some way we can only find out so much about the characters because we are watching their conversation ongoing for such a long time. The audience gets so much closer to the characters because the authenticity and the casual and colloquial way they are talking to each other makes us feel like a part of their conversation.

    In general everything that happens in the film seems very fluid and natural so that it creates a certain harmony. It is very “easy” to watch because it just feels like we are accompanying the two characters for a while.

    It is incredible how Linklater manages to his films and especially BEFORE SUNSET seem so smooth and realistic. What looks like a recorded conversation on first sight is so much more than that because it involves the best directing skills and a lot of planning. You are right by saying that Linklater belongs to the most important filmmakers of this generation because he manages to form his films into something that is fun to watch for anybody but at the same time very real and philosophical

  • John Maher

    I agree that Richard Linklater is one of the most unique filmmakers of our time. He is definitely an “auteur,” the true author of the film Before Sunset. And, he does this in different ways. Linklater does not just rely on the characteristics of romance and drama to make this film. Linklater goes far beyond that. In the movie Before Sunset we see two characters walking around France in the span of just one day. He is using “real time” as a unique way to present his characters. Since “real time” is in fact, real, it draws us into becoming part of the movie. Linklater also is the auteur through his camera work. Linklater uses long shots instead of a bunch of quick cuts. He definitely favors dialogue over action and this is seen in the long, uninterrupted conversation of the couple in Before Sunset. This may sound boring on first thought but after watching it, it is quite good because Linklater can make one conversion so deep and so real that you can’t stop watching. I love how you noted that much of Linklater’s work stems culturally from his home state, Texas. Not only is the character Jessie a Texas native, but Ethan Hawke who plays him is from Austin too, which is something to note. Linklater thinks outside the box and does a wonderful job with film experiments -like filming a movie about a boy’s childhood or making a movie about a director before he made his biggest film in the 1940’s. Through these experiments, he makes it his film. Linklater is always up to something new and it only a matter of time to see what he does next for the film industry.

  • Brendan Q.

    I have seen at least 4 Linklater films, and based on what I’ve seen, I can agree with many of your points. I agree that his movies tend to take place in a specific sense of place. In Before Sunset, for example, the film takes place in a realistic version of Paris. I also agree that Linklater is a consistently innovative filmmaker. The film Before Sunset is the only movie I can recall that takes place fully in real time and Linklater makes that approach work by having long takes, tracking shots, and copious yet natural dialogue. About ten years later, the movie Boyhood comes out, which was the first time a movie followed a someone growing up over a period of years and had the same cast committed to the project for over a decade.

  • Emily Desgranges

    There are many reasons why I’m glad I have taken two classes taught by you. I am most grateful for you teaching me to better appreciate directors and what makes their films theirs’ and how their “style” came to be. As I become more familiar with Richard Linklater and his films, that appreciation only continues to grow. I agree with you when you sometimes mention that most films being released to the public these days are not nearly as good as movies that were made in past decades. Things have changed, and peoples’ expectations have changed.

    Thankfully, Linklater does his research. He is a true “cinemaniac” and I absolutely love it. Filmmakers like Tarantino want to appear that they have done their research, but really they incorporate pieces of only the types of films they like into their own work. As much as Linklater is apart of the “VHS generation”, he seems to awkwardly fall into the “Film School Generation.” You stated the “Film School Generation” is celebrated and in my opinion the “VHS generation” is unfortunately defined by Quentin Tarantino. Maybe that’s why Linklater didn’t become as recognized as the rest. People might have been interested on just focusing on one or the other and didn’t want to give any attention to someone that might be successful at doing their own thing while representing both generations.

    I thought what Ariel said about her “eavesdropping” on Jesse and Celine’s conversation in Before Sunset was funny and interesting. I can relate to that! Ethan and Julie’s chemistry was so apparent and real throughout the film. We see a sense of trust and gratitude between both Jesse and Celine and Ethan and Julie. They talk about things that all of us talk about on most days and i think that is what has us so interested. We want to get to know these people as well as we can because they’re nine years older this time and we want to guess what will happen next! I absolutely love that Linklater favors worthwhile dialogue over action. It makes for a much more interesting and often times relatable film.

    A lot of people watch movies in order to escape reality for a couple of hours. When I’m watching a movie that is 80% action and 20% dialogue, or something that I can in no way relate to my own life, I might be entertained, but that’s it. I don’t “escape”, I just sit there watching. Afterwards I’m not left with anything to think about or dream about. However when I watch a Richard Linklater film, my experience is always much different. Richard Linklater often says that he makes many of his films the way that he does because “real, everyday life is good enough.” Thant mantra shines its light in his films. I think that’s so awesome and in many ways beautiful.

  • Katie Lawler

    I think the most incredible thing about Linklaters films is that he has the abiliby to create such a realistic film without trying too extremely hard. His movies flow so well that although “Before Sunset” was only a conversation, if felt like the time went by so fast, which happens in real life. People are constantly keeping time as a factor. Linklater is one of the greatest film makers of all time because he can turn an extremely low budget film into a masterpiece. The whole movie was so graceful and glowed so nicely, especially with great camera movements that followed the two characters perfectly so we could see what is was like from each characters point of view. I also surprisingly did like how the movie ended, I usually don’t like movies that don’t tell you a clear ending, but I did like that we were left with some sort of mystery of when or not they end up together! Overall, Linklater is making art and realist conversation that people can actually relate too.

  • Moises Sotomayor

    I have to agree that Linklater is the best at what in his generation and is most definitely the auteur of his own films. After watching Before Sunset, LInklater personally demonstrated a different way in which a film can be done, it was brilliant! Throughout the film, Linklater’s signature can be seen as he is the one telling the story in a more book-like perspective than the characters of the film acting out the part. As mentioned above, Linklater has demonstrated his vast knowledge of all the places that pertain to the movie, physically and in the imagination of the characters of the movie. You mention that, “Linklater’s work stems, culturally as well as geographically”, I do truly think that a lot of his work is inspired based on what he has lived through, but adds an intricate translation to a place in time that is more natural and normal. Both, Before Sunset and Before Midnight as set in the streets of Paris that demonstrate the characters of the films in a more vulnerable state of mind. Quoting Linklater, he mentions that, “My work is so much simpler than his” and in translation he is most certainly correct in the sense that he does not need all the perfect equipment or the budget to create a huge film with re-touching and what not. His skills as the author of the film definitely put his imagination to create films that are more than just movies, but in contrast are works of art.

  • izziemari50

    personally i agree with the statement that linklater does an amazing job of having most of the films he makes to be in the matter of a single day. the amount of detail of the film is amazing for example in before sunset it was all in the matter of one day but there was so much to learn about those characters by the dialog and how the shots were filmed, its amazing how that is created, i can see why he’s so well liked. the fact that he does an amazing job with his films by the creativity and heart that is put into it really shows; now a days films can be predictable and artificial that people don’t really know what an actual good film is. and linklater does the exact opposite he puts everything into his films, whether it’s something about where he’s from or the actual story lines it’s refreshing. as mentioned he has so much knowledge about films that by mixing all that he has learned and admire really shows off in his own work. it’s very clear that he is more than a film maker he’s an artist he creates these beautiful shots that could possibly be shot for a reason and that’s really interesting and different.

  • Russell Kinscherff

    Linklater, as a director, may not have been successful at the box office, yet the biggest actors and actresses always want to work with him. I think this is because of his style of filmmaking, which is very philosophical and different from others of his generation. It’s is certainly quite amazing, especially with his ability to incorporate the philosophy of life in m different genres, such as sci-fi with A Scanner Darkly, comedy (which might be his favorite) with School of Rock, and drama with films like Boyhood and Before sunrise. Setting is undoubtedly important to him, which I think he shares in common with most directors of the VHS era, but what really separate his style is the relaxing feel you get while watching his movies (exception of Scanner Darkly). They’re very philosophical and have a unique message about stepping back and enjoying the little things in life. That’s another thing I think he does well. He puts the movies in real life situations and delves into human nature, without putting much of a fantasy element on it. Before Sunrise was like that more so than others, because that movie was filmed in “real time.” I enjoyed that movie very much, because it’s so relatable to the amount of small talk people make while avoiding the real issue at hand. It works very well, and it is something that is damn hard to do so I respect him for that. He may not be my favorite director of that generation, but he undeniably deserves the praise he receives for his innovative style and patience.

  • Jules Gartsman

    Personally, I agree with you 100% with your statement that Linklater does such an amazing job with having the most films completed in a period of a single day. Take the film “Before Sunset” for an example. With having one day to shoot this, the details in the film are impressive and its amazing how this film was developed. There was so much information to retain about the characters and their lives through the constant dialogues and different camera angles we experience in this film. It’s hard but amazing work and I can tell why people like Linklater’s work. It’s both different from other film makers yet he stays consistent within his own films. What I especially liked about “Before Sunset” was the fact that there was little no action and it consisted and depended on dialogue. It was something that I have never seen before and it was both touching and a new experience that i’d want to relive again with another Linklater film. This film maker goes above and beyond to create something new, different, beautiful and most importantly, meaningful. In my opinion, this man is not only a film maker, but an amazing artist as well that creates his own style and flare.

  • Libby Houdek

    I think that you are correct that Linklater’s greatest innovations probably resulted from his structuring of narratives around real-time sequences, as I witnessed in Dazed And Confused during class. With so many films only focusing on the highlights or most heart pounding moments of each day in their worlds, it was interesting to see a film that centered more around what happened throughout a day that could otherwise be considered completely ordinary. It allows the audience to focus more on the characters and their day to day lives given the time and space they live in. This also connects to your explanation of point #2, where you say that “Linklater’s films are about “real life” (which, of course, includes cinephilia) more than simply being about other movies.” If I had to guess, what happened throughout Dazed And Confused could have very literally occurred in some capacity in Texas during the 70’s, which (in my opinion) gives the film more of a home-movie feel as opposed to a professional film production. With so many movies being filled with larger than life worlds, characters, and plots, a director that focuses more on the day to day stands out in contrast to them all with his use of the ordinary.

  • Ana Moreno

    Richard Linklater undoubtably has a signature style. From the many clips we watched in the documentary, I noticed that most his films have a great sense of adventure. You can see his youth in his films, especially since they are rooted in his home state of Texas. I also think that it is interesting how he seems to have discovered so many great actors today. It is so neat to see someone with such an eye for talent. I was most surprised by his ability to develop characters. There were so many characters in Dazed and Confused, and they all got so little screen time. Despite this, the audience knew exactly how the character was just based off of a few lines of dialogue. His film style is indeed innovative, especially with the art style in Scanner Darkly.

  • Sabrina Long

    Dazed and confused was the first film by Richard Linklater that i have seen that I can remember. I was quite impressed watching one of his films after seeing the documentary with his and James Benning in it. I was not really sure what to expect from one of his films, but I defiantly knew there was going to be something to do with the essence of time. Which there certainly was, even though dazed and confused was in the time period of one day, you could see how the cycle will repeat as time goes on and even though the characters represent it, their are traditions that help resemble that. I was also very intrigued to see this films after hearing the characters were playing themselves as they were in high school and their real life personalities. Also that this was based of off Linklater’s high school experiences. I do agree that he has a deep root of his base of most his movies being in Texas or having Texas roots in it. He is one of the best directors in keeping that sense of place. I would like to say he is the best director of his generation, but I have not personally scene a lot of the other directors movie, so my opinion would be bias.

  • Tyler Storlie

    The idea that Richard Linklater is the most important film maker to his generation, makes me wonder why an argument like this would even exist. I think it goes against what they all kind of stood for. They were on the outside looking in, each clinging to there film making dreams in the hope that they would catch a break. They were a generation of film makers that were able to do it them selfs, and create what they wanted, instead of trying to put them selfs into the box that the system wanted them to occupy.

    You cannot discredit what Kevin Smith did for dirty comedic films, or Tarantino for his influence on story writing and depth of his movies. You could argue they had a bigger influence on movies just based on the cult films they made. Honestly you could make this argument about anyone of these guys, they are all amazing in there own regard, making films that will be enjoyed for a very long time. Maybe Linklater has had better longevity, but if you were to compare Guns and Roses and Foo fighters you would have a hard time trying to say that Guns and Roses was less important because they were only a major band for half a decade in comparison to the Foo Fighters 20+ because the time they are around has nothing to do with what comes of the work they create.

    I honestly think that the VHS generation of directors are some of the most influential in the present day, and there innovations will be felt for many movies to come.

  • Jaylen Wilkins

    With my own knowledge I would not be able to agree or disagree with your point on Linklatet, as I have only seen one of his films. The one film I have seen of his, “Dazed and Confused”, is a movie that I have previously heard of as being a ‘cult classic’. After watching I can see why it has created such a following. It is so simple and easy to follow, you don’t have to get wrapped up in a complicated plot, you watch and then you feel whatever emotion the characters are evoking. As I watched I felt the freshman’s terror as they were running from seniors and the seniors need to party and to celebrate their accomplishment of graduating high school. The film pulls you in and take you along to just hang out with every character. With this being said I can admire Linklater for making such a film that can just put a smile on your face, without being too over the top as most comedies I have seen are.

    Directors apart of the VHS era should be apprieciated more. No schooling, just learning for what you see and being inspired by it is truly amazing. To me it’s just a natural gift the needed to be brought to the surface. These director care about their work greatly because it’s something that they truly enjoy doing aposed to it being a job, I assume.

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