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Lou Taylor Pucci,
It's been said that the first 21 years defines the career of an artist. Few directors have single-handedly shaken up the film establishment like the godfather of indie, Richard Linklater. From the groundbreaking SLACKER to his innovative BOYHOOD, Linklater has just reached the 21-year mark and has unapologetically carved his signature into American pop culture. This compelling documentary takes you on a behind the scenes tour into Linklater's style, skills, and motivation via his friends, actors, and other directors. Get a raw and honest perspective on Richard through candid conversations with Ethan Hawke, Jack Black, Keanu Reeves, Billy Bob Thornton, Matthew McConaughey, Jason Reitman, Julie Delpy and others, and see their stories brought to life through hilarious animated sequences. For a guy who became famous for celebrating the cool and casual, Linklater emerges as a surprisingly strategic and visionary director who has already established a legacy and perfected a style that can't...Written by
A surface exploration chronicling what most of us fans already know/assume
"Boom! We go to set, I get my '70s Chevelle," Matthew McConaughey says, recalling his experience on the set of Richard Linklater's film Dazed and Confused in 21 Years: Richard Linklater. "It's gonna be my first scene in the movie, and I'm going, 'F***, here we go!,' and I'm really nervous," he continues. "I'm going, 'Who am I? What am I about? What's my man, what's my man?,' and I remember in my head hearing Wooderson's voice going: 'All right, I'm about pot, rock 'n' roll, my car, and p****.' Well, I'm high, I'm in my Chevelle, I'm listening to Nugent, and I heard 'action.' And I got all of those things but one," he finishes.
Such moments of reflection and analysis on the career of Linklater are prominent in 21 Years: Richard Linklater, an unapologetic love-letter to the director from a large group of people who have worked with him since his beginning. At seventy-five minutes, the film plays more like a bonus feature on a Linklater DVD set, or a welcomed addition at a wrap-party for the director, rather than a stand-alone documentary feature. Unlike Mike Myers' film Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, where the documentary concerns a subject and is fueled with just as much energy and charisma as its subject, 21 Years is more about congratulatory analysis over some sort of stylistic structure. With this particular documentary being robbed of that key feature, we get a film more centered on complementary analysis and bullet-pointed observations than anything of thought-provoking substance.
The documentary isn't a total loss, though. It's an interesting analysis of some of Linklater's more perplexing directorial choices, such as The Bad News Bears and A Scanner Darkly within two years of one another, and the impact and production process of the Before trilogy. Interviewees such as Jack Black, Joey Lauren Adams, Billy Bob Thornton, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delphy all elaborate on the experience they had working with the man himself and demystify his process, affirming my assumption through interviews and assumptions of the man that his style is lax and largely up to the capabilities and the willingness of the audience. It is true, in fact, that Linklater leaves a lot of the naturalism and possibilities of his films up to the improvisation skills of his actors, while in other cases, making scenes heavily scripted so the actors can follow them to a tee.
The actors all give their impressions of working with Linklater, in addition to chronicling the impact his films have had. Filmmakers like Kevin Smith and the Duplass brothers, Jay and Mark, discuss the far-reaching and groundbreaking effects Linklater's official directorial debut Slacker had on the independent cinema movement of the 1990's. Rather than scapegoating or giving an elaborate list of excuses as to why he was prohibited or limited in making a film the way he wanted, Linklater silently told all of the inner-filmmakers in us "just do it, no excuses." People like Smith saw his film Slacker and were motivated to turn the cameras on their neighborhoods and give them a breath of cinematic life. With the rise in technology and the ubiquity of cameras, editing software, and a means to release ones' creation, Linklater effectively established a policy built on no excuses - just the pursuit of filmmaking.
21 Years: Richard Linklater, throughout all its congratulating and hailing of its titular subject, leaves out perhaps Linklater's most important contribution to the arts, which was restoring Austin, Texas's arts and entertainment field by developing a film festival for independent talent following a huge monetary cut in the funding of the arts for the town. Linklater's philanthropy is left for the tailend of the documentary, given a pamphlet's worth of exposition while the entire bout of end credits are devoted to thanking Linklater for all he has done for them. Linklater, himself, is sadly absent to his own party, either for reasons attributed to being reclusive or he'd prefer his films lacking in direct interpretation from the source (the latter is likely the case, judging by the often cryptic quotes from him that punctuate each chapter in this documentary). 21 Years, due to its length and the positivity of its content, is hardly a task to watch, but its surface exploration and congratulatory aura ultimately provide for frustration, especially for fans who likely know a great deal of this information already and didn't need common knowledge treated as groundbreaking revelations by the people grateful enough to get an up close look at the man.
Directed by: Matthew Dunaway and Tara Wood.
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