Minneapolis, MN, August 31, 2011— The Walker Art Center presents Richard Linklater: A Day in the Life, part of the Walker’s In Context program, from September 24 to October 14. Eight of Linklater’s films will be screened as part of the series.
A screenwriter and director, Linklater burst into the spotlight when his second feature film, Slacker, was screened to great acclaim at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival. Made for a mere $23,000, the work’s complex, meandering style and use of interwoven characters gave voice to a new generation. Following on the heels of Douglas Copeland’s seminal Generation X and at the apex of the grunge-music scene, the film’s title came to define an era. The term “slacker,” however, was misunderstood as suggesting a crop of lazy and disconnected young people, when in fact the characters in Linklater’s film are actively reframing ’60s counterculture for themselves. “You kind of have to deprogram yourself of everything, of what your parents wanted you to do or what education has taught you,” the director says, “and really find out what you want to do.”
The 20th anniversary of Slacker is an apt occasion for another look at these unconventional early works. Much of Linklater’s early work explores the soul-searching quests that accompany each new life stage: the conflicting forces of carefree exuberance and parental repression during the teenage years in Dazed and Confused; the end-of-school melancholy of subUrbia; the backpacking-through-Europe rite of passage in Before Sunrise; the post-collegiate existentialism of twenty-somethings in Slacker; the reexamination of one’s past at the 30-year milestone in Tape; the failed relationships of early adulthood in Before Sunset.
This retrospective features films whose narratives are encapsulated in a 24-hour period. They brim with the cacophony of their offbeat characters’ conversations and visit themes of chance and fate, memory and time, and the road not taken. Marked by the director’s attention to the nuances of everyday life and speech, they are filled with sharp and witty dialogue.
Tickets to each film are $8 ($6 Walker members and students with valid ID) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612-375-7600. The Cinephile’s Special offers five films for the price of three: $24 (18).
September 24, 7:30 pm
Breaking new ground with its quixotic, seemingly random style, Slacker intricately weaves together the stories of 100 inimitable characters (beginning with Linklater himself) during a lazy, hot day in Austin, Texas. The natural dialogue, a hallmark of Linklater’s films, includes copious cultural and philosophical references ranging from Nietzsche and James Joyce to Madonna and Scooby Doo. Slacker inspired countless independent filmmakers, and spurred a youth migration to Austin. 1991, 35mm, 97 minutes.
September 28, 7:30 pm
Spend 24 hours in the lives of a colorful cast of characters, this time post–high school teenagers in the suburbs. While this mismatched group waits in a convenience store parking lot for the return of an erstwhile nerd who now has a major record deal, plans are hatched, racial tensions rise, and dreams are dashed—but mostly everyone stagnates in, as one character calls it, “this tarpit of stupidity that we’re all stuck in.” Eric Bogosian’s screenplay crackles with sardonic humor and brooding intensity. “Its murderous mix of junk food, wasted time, petty envy, and gallows humor creates a truly ghostly view of this world” (New York Times). 1996, 35mm, 121 minutes.
Dazed and Confused
October 1, 7:30 pm
Rivaling American Graffiti in capturing the essence of an era, Linklater’s reverie about the last day of high school in 1976 consists of episodic teenage escapades set against a booming rock-and-roll soundtrack. “I wanted to make a film that captured the energy of what I remember: driving around, not much happening but everything happening at once,” says Linklater (Sight and Sound). As smooth as a rhapsody, the film includes freshman efforts by Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, and Joey Lauren Adams, and the superb Matthew McConaughey as the lecherous graduate hanger-on with this raison d’être: “You just gotta keep on livin’, man. L-I-V-I-N.” 1993, 35mm, 103 minutes.
October 5, 7:30 pm
Independent filmmaker wannabe John (Robert Sean Leonard) and grimy fireman poseur Vince (Ethan Hawke) meet in a seedy Lansing hotel room for a twisted high school reunion of sorts. Linklater’s digital video version of Stephen Belber’s play takes place in one cramped room over real time, giving a grim, naturalized feel to this taut and intensely claustrophobic psychological drama. With mind games as fuel to the plot’s twists and turns, Tape viscerally explores themes of memory and truth. 2001, 35mm, 86 minutes.
October 7, 7:30 pm
Céline (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) are twenty-somethings who meet on a train to Paris and, upon Jesse’s urging to “think of it as time travel” for their future selves, make a stopover to explore the captivating city of Vienna together. What follows is a gentle, delicate romance. Their whip-smart and somewhat cynical conversation belies the fact that they’re falling in love, and touches on everything from sex to parents to metaphysics. An enchanting film that articulates “the sense that life holds infinite possibility” (New York Times). 1995, 35mm, 105 minutes.
October 8, 7:30 pm
“It’s about life and how you perceive it….” So declares Wiley Wiggins (the protagonist in Dazed and Confused) at the opening of Waking Life, for which Linklater utilized the then-new method of rotoscoping animation. The result is a fever of brightly hued, rippling, and fluidly dreamlike images as companion to the film’s philosophical musings—a “truly living and breathing work of art” (Film Threat). Featuring a cast of more than 50 characters, Waking Life is a “shape-shifting head trip that ruminates on psychodynamic experience as it visually captures the essence of subjectivity in a manner no film ever has before” (Village Voice). 2001, 35mm, 99 minutes.
October 14, 7:30 pm
This film lyrically answers the question “what if?” as posed by Before Sunrise. It picks up in Paris nine years after Céline and Jesse part ways, tackling this later stage of adulthood just as eloquently, and is “all one could wish for in a sequel—it enriches, glosses, and completes the original” (Village Voice). Nominated by the National Society of Film Critics, Independent Spirit, and the Academy Awards for its moving original screenplay written collaboratively by Linklater, frequent collaborator Kim Krizan, and actors Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. 2004, 35mm, 77 minutes.
Live from Shiva’s Dance Floor
September 24—October 30, screens each half hour
Speed Levitch, the charismatic New York tour guide who was the subject of the 1998 documentary The Cruise, is revisited by Linklater in this arresting short film. While leading tours through Ground Zero in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Levitch tries to reconcile the destruction he faces with his philosophy of life as an ongoing celebration. 2003, video, 21 minutes.
In Context is made possible by generous support from Michelle and Bill Pohlad and Elizabeth Redleaf.