Linklater at the Austin premiere of Fast Food Nation
|Born||Richard Stuart Linklater
July 30, 1960
|Occupation||Film director, screenwriter, producer, actor|
Linklater was born in Houston, Texas. He studied at Sam Houston State University and left midway through his stint in college to work on an off-shore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. While working on the rig he read a lot of literature, but on land he developed a love of film through repeated visits to a repertory theater in Houston. It was at this point that Linklater realized he wanted to be a filmmaker. After his job on the oil rig, Linklater used the money he had saved to buy a Super-8 camera, a projector, and some editing equipment, and moved to Austin. It was there that the aspiring cineaste founded the Austin Film Society and grew to appreciate such auteurs as Robert Bresson, Yasujiro Ozu, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Nagisa Oshima, and Josef Von Sternberg.
Linklater founded the Austin Film Society in 1985 together with his frequent collaborator Lee Daniel, and is lauded for launching and solidifying the city of Austin as a hub for independent filmmaking.
For several years, Linklater made many short films that were, more than anything, exercises and experiments in film techniques. He finally completed his first feature, the rarely seen It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (which is now available in the Criterion Collection edition of Slacker), a Super-8 feature that took a year to shoot and another year to edit. The film is significant in the sense that it establishes most of Linklater's preoccupations. The film has his trademark style of minimal camera movements and lack of narrative, while it examines the theme of traveling with no real particular direction in mind. These idiosyncrasies would be explored in greater detail in future projects.
To this end Linklater created Detour Filmproduction (an homage to the 1945 low budget film noir by Edgar G. Ulmer), and subsequently made Slacker for only $23,000. The film is an aimless day in the life of the city of Austin, Texas showcasing its more eccentric characters.
While gaining a cult following for his independent films, such as Dazed and Confused, Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, his mainstream comedies, School of Rock and the remake of Bad News Bears, have gained him wider recognition. In 2003, he wrote and directed a pilot for HBO with Rodney Rothman called $5.15/hr, about several minimum wage restaurant workers. The pilot deals with themes later examined in Fast Food Nation. In 2004, the British television network Channel 4 produced a major documentary about Linklater, in which the filmmaker frankly discussed the personal and philosophical ideas behind his films. "St Richard of Austin" was presented by Ben Lewis and directed by Irshad Ashraf and broadcast on Channel 4 in December 2004 in the UK. In 2005, Linklater was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his film Before Sunset.
Many of Linklater's films take place in one day, a narrative approach that has gained popularity in recent years. Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Tape, Before Sunrise, and Before Sunset are examples of this method. Two of his recent films, (A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life), employ an innovative animation technique. To create this effect, Linklater shot and edited both movies completely as live action features, then employed a team of artists to 'trace over' individual frames (a technique known as rotoscoping). The result is a distinctive 'semi-real' quality, praised by such critics as Roger Ebert (in the case of Waking Life) as being original and well-suited to the aims of the film.
Fast Food Nation (2006), is an adaptation of the best selling book that examines the local and global influence of the United States fast food industry. The film was entered into the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, before being released in North America on 17 November 2006 and in Europe on 23 March 2007.
Despite the popularity of some of his films and his ability to direct high-paying Hollywood productions, Linklater remains in Texas and refuses to live or work in Hollywood for any extended period of time.
Film scholars and commentators consider Richard Linklater's films to be significant in a number of ways.
In the early 1990s, Slacker was hailed as something of a manifesto for Generation X because the film's young adult characters are more interested in quasi-intellectual pastimes and socialising than career advancement. However, Linklater has long since eschewed the role of generational spokesperson. Moreover, the movie actually includes various generations, and many of its themes are universal rather than generation-specific. The film's purported relationship to Generation X is also undermined by the fact that the slacker existences depicted are as appealing for today's teenagers and young adults as they were for youth in the early 1990s. In this way, the film remains significant for documenting alternative pursuits of fulfilment in the face of a competitive, career-oriented and materialistic society.
Those of Linklater's films that have non-formulaic narratives about seemingly random occurrences, often spanning about twenty-four hours, have been hailed as alternatives to contemporary Hollywood market-driven blockbusters. In conjunction with these unorthodox narratives, the emphasis on philosophical talk over physical action in Slacker and Waking Life aligns Linklater's work with art cinema traditions, particularly those of Europe, from which much recent American cinema is estranged. Linklater's films thus embody the potential for contemporary American filmmaking to explore and develop new alternatives to formulaic entertainment.
The use of the rotoscoping animation technique in Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly has captured the imaginations of film viewers, scholars and filmmakers. In Waking Life, the combination of this technique with dream subject matter seems to have stimulated new visual approaches to representing subjective experience. An example is Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir (2008), an animated documentary that is based, like Linklater's work, on video, although without using the same animation technique.