” But all the clocks in the city begin to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you, You cannot conquer Time”.
W. H. Auden
For people who are obsessed with film (and to start and write a movie blog for over five years I must be pretty obsessive about film) there are directors that you feel belong to you. When I was a student and completely immersed in film the big name to break through was Quentin Tarantino, I love most of his films, but he was never “mine”. When Pulp Fiction opened in 1994 the queue was round the block, Tarantino was everyone’s director. But Richard Linklater always felt like my director. I didn’t see his early films in the cinema, but watched Slacker (1991), Dazed and Confused, (1993), Before Sunrise (1995) when they first came out on video and have seen the second two countless times since. Dazed and Confused is one of my most watched films even making it onto my Desert Island DVDs list ahead of Fandango. As a student none of my contemporaries at university were aware of Dazed and Confused, or Before Sunrise until I recommended them. They are both films I have always been happy to recommend as I am yet to find anyone who hasn’t at least enjoyed them. Film snobs can be a little sniffy about Dazed and Confused but were won over by Before Sunrise (1995). Richard Linklater’s new film Boyhood potentially eclipses all his previous work.
I first became aware of Boyhood when it appeared on IMDB as “untitled 12 year project” at first I thought it was the rumoured Before Sunrise sequel but them Before Sunset (2004) was announced and releases. Then I thought it may be part three, wrong again. Then, if not a synopsis, an idea of the mechanics of Boyhood appeared. Since then I have been hearing rumours about the film and finally got to see it this week. With a Runtime of 166 minutes it is almost exactly the same length as Transformers: Age of Extinction, both are long films but very different films. Despite the fact nothing unusual or outstanding really happens in Boyhood it is totally enthralling, captivating and the three hours flew by. Michael Bay’s latest epic instalment of his robots hitting each other is dull despite almost constant action. Boyhood’s budget was about one-hundredth what Bay spent, while Transformers is certain to make infinitely more money, it is disposable at best, Boyhood will be remembered as being as close to perfection as a film can be.
For those who don’t know, Boyhood is a unique and a uniquely ambitious film. The idea was conceived by Director Richard Linklater around 2001, he started filming the following year. He cast seven year old Ellar Coltrane in the lead role supported by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as his parents and Lorelei Linklater (Richard Linklater’s Daugter) as his sister. The film was then shot over the next twelve years telling the story of Mason (Coltrane) from the age of six until he leaves for collage at the age of eighteen.
What could easily have become an interesting gimmick actually transpires to be by far the best film I have seen all year. Throughout the movie nothing out of the ordinary happens, to make this interesting is the sign of true greatness. To attempt to review a film like this could never do it justice; you could call it a document of an age, a character study, a brilliant comedy, a heart-warming drama or a beautiful film; you could comment on the fantastic script or the brilliant natural acting; or even the interesting concept. All of these are true but also miss the point. The film depicts the milestones of Mason’s life but without the grand moments, it concentrates on the simple day to day as much as the big events. Ultimately it is document of a life, it has no great subtext or agenda, it just follows the twists and turns of adolescence. The film is at its best when it is at its most ordinary. To quote Celine and Jesse from Before Sunrise “all those mundane boring things, everybody has to do every day of their fucking life” or “The poetry of day to day life”. Shot over a number of years it can’t help but document the time in which it is set, in an interview with BBC Radio 4 Richard Linklater describes the film as “a period piece in a present tense”. We see advances in technology and document the political landscape of a nation but they are just background. The marvel of this anomaly of the format is that it doesn’t dwell on it. The same is true of the music. From the opening bars of Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion in Dazed and Confused it was clear that music is an important part of Linklater movies. Without been too overt the film charts the musical landscape of the time with music as varied as Coldplay, The Flaming Lips, Lady Gaga, Sheryl Crow and Bob Dylan.
Going into the movie knowing the format I could not help but watch for the changes from year to year, looking at how the actors changed, looking out for the songs of the day, but after a while I completely forgot this and enjoyed it for what it was. This suddenly hit me as Mason reached 18 and I suddenly realised the film would be over soon. Having been sat for nearly three hours I found myself wishing the film would go on for longer. There are very few movies that leave this feeling, is it a sign of perfection or manipulation? Interestingly Dazed and Confused leaves the same feeling as we see Wooderson’s car driving off into the distance.
So far the film has made a modest profit, how much money it makes is insignificant, however the more people who see it the better. It isn’t a film that will change the world, but it may just make the people who see it think. Richard Linklater has already received two Oscar nominations, both for “Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay” (Before Midnight (2013) and Before Sunset (2004)). Unless there are some truly amazing films released in the next six months he surly deserves an third nomination along with one for best director. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette wouldn’t be out of place amongst the supporting actor nominations. Just like the box-office the awards it wins don’t really matter, but if it picks up a few high profile awards it will encourage more people to see it.