Directors: Louis Black, Karen Bernstein
Cast: Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Watch Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
A couple of years back, critic-turned-director Gabe Klinger made a film called Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater. Instead of a traditional documentary tour of the respective filmographies of his director subjects, Klinger instead presented a series of extended chats between Linklater and his (perhaps unexpected) friend Benning, the latter being an older filmmaker better known to fans of the experimental and avant-garde. It allowed you to get a sense of Linklater’s ideas as an artist through more laidback means, rather befitting of the nature of his films, as he goes about doing various activities with Benning, such as hiking or playing catch, offering anecdotes to the other artist, instead of delivering filmmaking mantras to camera in an interview set-up.
Flash forward to 2016 and now we have Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny, a biographical portrait of Linklater alone that’s certainly much less innovative in terms of form, and ultimately feels less insightful. The personal connection isn’t lost, though. Dream Is Destiny is co-directed by Louis Black, a founder of the South By Southwest festival that has played host to many of Linklater’s films across his career. Occasional actor Black can also be found in Linklater’s breakthrough film Slacker, credited as Paranoid Paper Reader.
Essentially, then, this is a stop through (mostly) all of Linklater’s feature films, with the usual testimonials from famous collaborators (Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Jack Black, Patricia Arquette) and fans (Jonathan Demme, Kevin Smith), accompanying some admittedly interesting archive material, although said material tends to be stuff anyone with old DVDs of the likes of Dazed and Confused will have seen already. The best parts of Dream Is Destiny concern Linklater’s own easygoing delivery of various anecdotes about growing up and his artistic process, and the look we get at some creative logs from his younger days. And there naturally is a lot of Linklater in this Linklater documentary, so whatever faults there are, it’s not an infuriating watch and it definitely passes the time.
But there’s one glaring issue with it. As was something of a frustration in Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s recent doc on Brian De Palma, a big chunk of Linklater’s 2000s output gets the short shrift and is relegated to what’s basically a montage with minimal-to-no insight. This is specifically true in regards to A Scanner Darkly (a commercial disappointment, if not so much of a critical one), Fast Food Nation, Me and Orson Welles, and his remake of The Bad News Bears.
Of those, A Scanner Darkly does get some actual commentary from critic and New York Film Festival honcho Kent Jones, where he posits it as considerably underrated, but the group’s otherwise just put out there as something of a dark stage in the man’s career, where he had a string of films failing to be embraced by audiences, critics or both, but with little extrapolation as to why those films were made, or what Linklater thinks of them.
Jumping back to the decade before, Linklater’s 1996 teen movie SubUrbia isn’t even mentioned, let alone discussed, with the doc skipping ahead to The Newton Boys for a reflection on the director’s working within the studio system. And when it comes to the beginning of the 2000s, Tape gets a couple of clips shown, but no actual discussion beyond its festival circuit appearance alongside animated experiment Waking Life. Considering Linklater’s own suggestion in the documentary that, discounting anything to do with their critical or commercial performance, he’s not been dissatisfied with the qualitative results of any of his films, Black and co-director Karen Bernstein hastily bypassing so many of them seems to go against his perspective. At times, this slacker doc feels closer to a slacking doc.