Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" is a masterpiece. Full stop. It's an effortless piece of humanist filmmaking we don't often see, particularly on these shores where the Hollywood machine has forever altered the concept of what a movie should be, where independent cinema is pushed to the fringes while soaring budget gambles dominate the status quo and the middle ground of American cinema is consistently eroded. "Boyhood" is, at last, I think, the film Linklater has been striving toward his whole career. It is his Truffaut film.
When the director was making the press rounds last year for "Before Midnight," I sat down with him and star/co-writer Julie Delpy to discuss their journey with that story and those characters over the course of three films and 13 years. The expectation for more adventures in the life of Celine and Jesse had already set in, and Linklater joked that he would like to jump genres as an ode to Lindsay Anderson's Mick Travis trilogy (wherein Malcolm McDowell plays the same character, though not really, in completely different situations in "If…," "O Lucky Man!" and "Britannia Hospital").
But then he started talking about François Truffaut's work with actor Jean-Pierre Léaud and the character they created and explored together over the course of five films and 20 years: Antoine Doinel. Beginning with 1959's "The 400 Blows," which introduced the world to Doinel as a child in a masterpiece of the French New Wave, Truffaut and Léaud came back to the character in the short film "Antoine and Colette" in 1962 and the features "Stolen Kisses" in 1968, "Bed and Board" in 1970 and "Love on the Run" in 1979. Throughout much of the series, Claude Jade starred as Doinel's love interest, Christine.
"I wonder if Truffaut had lived, would there have been more Doinel films," Linklater wondered aloud with Delpy at the time. "It would be interesting to see him as an older man. That's a great loss. I think they would have continued making more of those."
But while the stunt, as it were, of following a single actor as a single character over a number of years is exciting, that's not what makes "Boyhood" such a significant piece of storytelling. It's what makes Linklater's vision possible, sure, as it roots the film in a naturalism as the audience witnesses the progression of its characters without any jarring casting changes and what have you. But what the film is is the culmination, I believe, of Linklater's proclivities as an artist. His mission statement could really be traced all the way back to the opening scene of his debut film, 1991's "Slacker," in which the filmmaker stars briefly as a man taking a cab from the bus station.
The character seems in some way obsessed with the mundane details of life, perceiving them as part and parcel of a cosmic kaleidoscope of possibilities. Recalling the premise of a book he read, the man tells the uninterested cab driver that "every thought you have creates its own reality." He goes on to envision a scenario where he didn't take the cab at all, where he met a beautiful woman at the bus station and she gave him a ride. They played pinball. They moved in together. It's all so ordinary yet fascinating to the man, and that, I believe, is what attracts Linklater to storytelling. It's all boiled down in the final note of "Boyhood," where his subject, by then starting college, considers the notion that life is made up of all of these seemingly regular moments, that it's always "right now," and that it's important to recognize that.
Linklater recognizes that. So, too, did Truffaut, who for all his admiration of Alfred Hitchcock, straining to emulate the master in his own thrillers, nevertheless seemed tethered to the humanism of his other idol, Jean Renoir. And like Truffaut, Linklater has found himself caught between his identity as an observer of human condition and a stylist influenced by Hollywood. It's an intriguing tug of war that has only deepened his grasp of form and the confidence that was already evident in "Slacker." The result is something so refined and graceful that you can only gasp. "Boyhood" bears the kind of engaging authenticity filmmakers spend entire careers trying to capture, yet it appears to be Linklater's second language.
Artists like that belong in the pantheon.
"Boyhood" opens in limited release July 11.
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
Let Streaming Genie help you.