Southern Fried Karma is back on the topic of southern directors this week. Today we will be looking at renowned screenwriter and director Richard Linklater. A man whose work you have seen before, whether you know it our not. If you have ever watched Dazed and Confused (1993), School of Rock (2003), or Boyhood (2014), then you have looked at a Richard Linklater film. Shocking, we know. However, today is not about Linklater’s famous works. In fact, today is about his first ever film. His first statement in cinema–Slacker(1991).
Slacker, Linklater’s indie darling, encompasses all aspects of his auteurship, and in analyzing just a single scene of the movie, one can see the budding style of this now famous director. So, take one moment to examine this beginning scene from Slacker.
This scene has the director himself in it. That is Richard Linklater talking to the cab driver about his theory of thoughts relation to reality. This cameo is appropriate considering reality seems to be on Linklater’s mind a lot.
You see, Richard Linklater artistic style can be categorized and strictly humanist work. His films are grounded in a tangible reality. This scene exhibits the idea entirely. Though Linklater’s character is talking about a theory serving different realities, the scene itself is natural. The audience can see themselves being either the cab driver or the monologuing passenger. Linklater is the master of realistic characterization.
The director achieves this realism through his dialogue. Linklater writes most of the films he directs, and that thoughtfulness shines through in his movies. The characters discussions never seemed forced. Instead, the dialogue in Linklater films always flows smoothly from one topic to the next. Linklater gets reality. His film Slacker shows it in such a fluid way that we believe that the movie is just simply a day in the life of Austin, Texas (the hometown of Linklater, and shooting location for his early films). However, creating an authentic feel to a movie does not stop at dialogue.
Linklater’s director chops show in the cinematography of the scene as well. The camera seems to be a natural third party observer. The camera moves from one set-up to the next seamlessly. The camera just simply exists. So, instead of the audience focusing on what the camera is doing, they are now free to observe the characters interactions and absorb the setting. Note how the camera lingers at the bus stop even after the taxi has left. This set-up is intentional. The viewer has been gifted a chance to comprehend fully where the character was, wondering what is left here for them as an audience member. Just as the passenger is wondering if he should have stayed at the bus stop too. In fact, the camera lingers as if stuck with a choice on who to follow. Does the camera follow the first or second cab? Should it go for a different choice and just follow the bag carrier? This thought process breaks up when the passenger starts talking, and Linklater uses a vocal bridge to cut to the first cab, showing the decision has been made.
These two ideas, realistic dialogue and lingering camera shots, are the cornerstone to Linklater’s filmography. Through these techniques, Linklater has explored the reality of humanity. His films have touched many people with just how real and empathetic they are. We encourage you to dive into this southern directors work and become enamored with just how much Linklater understands the wrinkles of life.
In fact, Linklater just recently released a new film; Everybody Wants Some(2016), so be sure to check that out. Take an hour or so out of your week, and try a Linklater film you have not seen before. We here at Southern Fried Karma are sure you will get something great out of it.