Nov 25 Proclaimed ‘Austin Film Culture Day’ – Celebrates Pompidou Retrospective Honoring Richard Linklater
(© Centre Pompidou, photos by Hervé Véronèse)
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and City Council have proclaimed that November 25 (today!) is now officially Austin Film Culture Day. The proclamation celebrates a new exhibition and career retrospective honoring Richard Linklater at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and with it, international recognition for Austin film and the entire film community.
On view from November 25 – January 6, Richard Linklater: Filming Time as Material will feature his complete filmography presented alongside original photographs, posters, documents, and videos, including a special short film commissioned for the retrospective, all dealing with time—a central theme of his work. With this exhibition, Linklater joins the esteemed ranks of some of history’s greatest filmmakers, including Chantal Akerman, Brian De Palma, Jean-Luc Godard, Martin Scorsese, Abbas Kiarostami, Werner Herzog, and others previously honored by Pompidou retrospectives.
In advance of the opening, the Centre Pompidou sat down with Linklater to talk about his work and process, and making films in Austin, Texas:
Centre Pompidou: How did you get into movie-making?
Richard Linklater: While I grew up loving films, I didn’t think of it as something I could do until I was in my early 20’s. Up until then, I considered myself an aspiring novelist, then an aspiring playwright, then I discovered movies and realized it was my medium—I had films in my head, not novels or plays, and then and there dedicated my life to cinema.
In your movies, you ponder the duration of action, the zeitgeist, the passing of time. Is time at the core of your work?
I’ve always loved the unique relation the cinematic art form has with time. I feel it’s so fundamental—if a film is a canvas, time is the paint, which of course can express itself in so many different ways.
How did you come to make 3 films with the same characters and actors, the Before Trilogy with Ethan Hawke and July Delpy—every 9 years—thus spanning over 18 years? How did you get the idea for BOYHOOD, one of the craziest ideas in the history of cinema, a fiction movie you took 12 years to shoot, to portray a child growing into an adult?
The Before Trilogy is fairly accidental, we just fell into it, realizing each time that those two characters were at a new phase of life and we had something to express about it. BOYHOOD was very different in its origin. I wanted to make a very personal film about childhood but couldn’t find one little window into a particular story. What I was wanting to depict was craving a much bigger canvas and there’s this inherent limitation with what you can represent with young actors. You can’t just tell the 9-year old, “okay, now you’re going to be playing like you’re 13” and using different actors only works if there are plenty of years in between their ages, and even then, it’s often problematic. So, I had a problem I was trying to solve. Just as I was giving up on it as a film, and thinking maybe this will best be expressed in literary form rather than cinematic, as my hands touched the keyboard to start writing that novel, the big idea hit me and there was the film, everyone slowing growing up and aging over the years in the one film. It would require 12 years to make, but I knew it would work the way I wanted.
You have sometimes worked in Hollywood and very often with stars, while remaining independent. You set up your own business, Detour Filmproduction, and also the vibrant Austin Film Society, which started out as a little movie club and which now has a cinema and studios, and distributes grants. How did you manage that?
I’ve consciously chosen to keep the industry at a distance from my creative center, both geographically and spiritually. You get too close and it might affect your thought-process, decision-making, priorities, etc. I just want to tell the stories I’m passionate about, with no bigger plan or strategy, one film after another, with no compromise. I’ve been lucky to have industry backing at times, and also happy to be able to jump around to whatever lower budget and situation I might find myself in regarding a particular project I want to do. I’ve never seen myself at a certain level. Austin has been a wonderful place to work from, a very modern and progressive community but still in the Texas of my story-telling core. It feels now that our film community and myself have grown up together.
You present a complete retrospective as well as, for the first time, an exhibition on your work at the Centre Pompidou. What does it mean to you?
It’s certainly an honor, and a challenge of sorts. I look forward to having all the films and materials so close to one another, maybe just to see if it coheres and makes any sense.