(NOTE: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW IS A SERIES OF REVIEWS IN WHICH I REVIEWED THE FILMS I SAW AT THIS YEAR’S AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL. I APOLOGIZE FOR THE DELAY IN THE REVIEWS. ENJOY)
The 21st annual Austin Film Festival has begun! It’s been a long year and wait from the previous festival, where I saw films such as Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, and Philomena just to name a few. This is my fourth straight year, and this could possibly be my last for awhile, but never say never! I begun the film festival with the film The Humbling (which I’ll review for you later) and 21 Years: Richard Linklater. The latter film chronicles the career of Richard Linklater, the Austin based filmmaker behind such films as Slacker, Dazed and Confused, the Before trilogy, and this years Boyhood, just to name a few. A couple of Austin based filmmakers named Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood directed this documentary that looks at nearly all of Linklater’s films, with interviews from several of his collaborators, including Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, and Jack Black just to name a few. The film also examines the impact that Richard Linklater has had on the city of Austin, and the film scene across the state of Texas. Without Richard Linklater and his movies, Austin would not be the city it is today. Does 21 Years do the filmmaker justice? Let’s find out.
As I mentioned earlier, the film features interviews from Linklater’s previous collaborators, as they talk about the various projects and their relationship with Linklater both professionally and personally. We get some greatly funny stories from Matthew McConaughey and even Keanu Reeves, as they all can’t get over how Richard Linklater has made these deep, often poetic films in the form of the Before trilogy and Boyhood, and yet he’s not your average cinema snob. He’s an average looking guy whose South Texas accent still is with him whenever he speaks publicly. The film also goes in depth about how a lot of the films were made, and the whole process of it. It’s a nice documentary that is a love letter to Richard Linklater and the city of Austin, but I felt like something was missing after the film was over. The film just covers Linklater’s films from 1991 to now (although Boyhood was not finished when they were making this film). It would have been nice to have had a little more background on Linklater himself, since he was a man who originally went to college on a baseball scholarship, and worked on an oil rig before he wanted to start making movies.
And the filmmakers are aware of this. During the Q and A after the film, the filmmakers mentioned how they had the option of including all of that (including Mr. Linklater himself, as the only time you see him in the film is through photos, video shot from various Austin Film Society events, and in cartoon form. I’ll get into that later). But they felt that this was more of a thank you note to Mr. Linklater, for all that he’s done for Austin and the state of Texas in the past 20+ years. They even end the film by writing “Thank you Rick” on screen, with all the actors thanking Mr. Linklater for what they’ve done for their career and so forth. Maybe I’m just a little spoiled since I previously saw the film Life Itself, about the life and career of Roger Ebert earlier this year, as the way I looked at Roger’s work and life was much more different that what I originally saw in the man. Granted, the filmmakers weren’t setting out to see that film, but I hope somebody makes that type of film about Mr. Linklater in the near future.
To sum it up, 21 Years: Richard Linklater is a must see for fans of Richard Linklater and for fans of filmmaker and film directors. The strange cartoon sequences kind of take you out of the film for a bit, but it is a nice tribute to a man whose career has contributed to the careers of countless independent filmmakers (I’m one of them). I do highly recommend you go buy or rent the film when it’s released on November 7th, as the proceeds from the film will go toward the Austin Film Society and will help fund the young filmmakers program at AFS. There’s no arguing with that.