Saturday, July 26, 2014

Richard Linklater's new film "Boyhood" at Landmark Theatres: Jul 25 - Sept 4

After having skipped it in SIFF due to the madding crowds and knowing Richard Linklater's newest, "Boyhood" would be making a return run at Landmark Theatres outside of the festival, I have a good bit of expectation built for what I'm anticipating will be to my mind, his first great film. Much like the work of Paul Thomas Anderson, I've seen many of his past decade and a half of films in the theater, rarely inspired, never satisfied, yet left with a sense that there was some significant substantive cinema voice at the core of the work. P.T. Anderson finally hit the equilibrium with 2012's "The Master", producing a work greater than his previous attempts at replicating the intellectual soul of Altman, Kubrick and Malick. This time I feel it's Linklater's moment to shine. The premise of his newest brings to mind images of young men on the verge of adolescence and maturation crafted by other directors throughout the history of cinema, François Truffaut’s "The 400 Blows" is a parallel as are many of the young protagonists in Gus Van Sant’s cinema, his surprisingly genuine teen skate drama "Paranoid Park" could be considered a counterpoint. Where the theme of Linklater's film isn't anything new under the sun, a intimate portrait of a Texan boy could just as well be artfully crafted by any number of contemporary independent directors, "Boyhood" is less about what it means to be a child developing into a young man, than it is an evocation of another major theme in the director's work; Time. And not just time as a narrative device of overarching philosophical concept, but this time, the present moment, and what it means to be alive right now on the entry into the 21st Century. Holly Willis for Film Comment explores the film's capturing of the now, not only as the environment in which the film's protagonist gestates, but the social, familial, technological and cultural forces that inform the Zeitgeist and shape the nature of how "It’s About Time: Linklater’s 'Boyhood' Spans 12 Years, but it’s Always in the Moment". Time explored through everyday events, often mundane in their particulars, yet these aren't movie children and parents with formulaic arcs and storybook solutions, but characters whose honest, raw hurt and moments of casual grace carry the quiet shock of what it's like to live life in modern America as though "Growing Up in Real Time: Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ Is a Model of Cinematic Realism".

The incremental stages and events so insignificant and everyday, that it's easy to lapse out of the awareness that you're witnessing them transpire over 12 consecutive years in the life of it's protagonist Mason (quiet and inward-looking as convincingly portrayed by Ellar Coltrane), who’s age 6 at the film's opening and 18 and on his way to the tribulations and adventures of college and adulthood at the film's conclusion. In between, he goes to school; argues with his sister, (again a smart, often precocious character as expressed by Lorelei Linklater, the director’s daughter) and watches his mother, Olivia struggle with work and (largely alcoholic, controlling, loud self-important) men while paying the bills, moving from home to home and ascending toward her teaching career and independence. And every so often, the estranged father Mason Sr. (convincingly a layabout 'cool dad' portrayed by Ethan Hawke), roars into the children’s lives in his GTO. Mason's destination, literally on the road to college life, the last of the children to leave mom's protective nest is seemingly the focal point of this audacious exercise in duration and real-time observation. By the time of the film's closing scene, the weight of all these incremental, small life events accumulates a weight, a little of the substance of life experienced. We've lived alongside Mason and his family not only for the film's duration, but more than a decade of his tribulations, questing, achievements and development, making this the most successful of all of Linklater's endeavors to depict life, "Moment to Moment: Why Richard Linklater Makes Movies". This audacious duration experiment earning Ashley Clark's Film of the Week cover feature on the August Sight & Sound, the issue also containing my personal favorite of the recent interviews with the film's director, "The Long Conversation: Richard Linklater on Cinema and Time".