The first Richard Linklater film I ever saw was Waking Life in 2001. I like to call 2001 the year when I finally broke away from looking forward to standard Hollywood fare, and gravitated more towards what the critics liked. And Waking Life was as beautiful of a film as I saw that year. The fascinating rotoscoping technique was a marvel to watch at every moment, and I knew this was a guy who I would want to keep an eye on in the years to come.
On Friday night, Linklater was presented by the SFIFF with the Founder’s Directing Award at the legendary Castro Theater and we were treated to a lengthy nostalgic clip real of his 20+ years in the director’s chair. It was a treat to relive all of these terrific films, many of which I hadn’t seen in a while. Others of which I had forgotten that he had directed (Me and Orson Welles). We were then introduced to Linklater himself who came out for a good hour or so to discuss his work with surprise moderator, Parker Posey. It was an engaging and very entertaining chat between two good friends who had known each other for a very long time.
We were then treated to Linklater’s brand new film, an experiment twelve years in the making, called Boyhood.
Linklater has done a good job at keeping the project relatively secret for the last 12 years, but I certainly had heard a handful of mutterings here and there on gossip pages about how he was traveling with the same crew to the same spots every year or so. It turns out this is a film charting the life of a boy named Mason as he ages from 7 to 19, along with his sister, his parents and basically anyone else who appears in the film. Linklater wisely makes this more than a gimmick, and never calls attention to the passage of time. It’s one single story where we get to see actors age and grow up. Music of each time period is used consistently, as are discussions of current political issues, issues which sparked uproarious laughter from the audience. In fact, the audience was consistently laughing the whole way through this lengthy, but never boring, 162 minute epic. Linklater’s sense of humor is in full force here, which makes it that much more effective when the film occasionally gets dark. Boyhood is as good a time as I’ve had at the movies all year.
The film received a long standing ovation as Linklater came back out to the stage for another panel discussion along with his producer and his daughter Lorelai, who played Mason’s sister. My favorite line from Linklater of the night, “She likes to call this movie 12 Years A Slave.” Between the “Sunrise/Sunset” trilogy where we were shown two people age and mature in 9 year increments, as well as the rotoscoping techniques in Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, or the real-life interviews interspersed throughout his 2012 film Bernie, Richard Linklater has consistently shown that he is more than willing to take risks and experiment with new ways of storytelling that you wouldn’t expect from a traditional narrative. His work on Boyhood is as strong as anything he’s ever done, and I’m very anxious to see what he comes up with next. The sold out audience at the Castro Theater clearly loved every minute.
Festival Photo by Tommy Lau, Photos Courtesy SFFS