Current discourse surrounding auteur theory seems to presuppose a lone genius whose singular vision contains in it the power to overwrite all other contributions and supersede all commercial influence. There’s something to be said for raw talent in moviemaking, but such a collaborative and expensive art form seems to demand a more complex explanation of creation.
Louis Black and Karen Bernstein’s new documentary, “Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny,” provides a necessary corrective for a generation of film fans learning about directors through tabloid-infused cults of celebrity or video essay supercuts that celebrate visual repetition as proof of self-evident virtuosity.
Their subject, Texan troubadour Richard Linklater, has had a career that would baffle anyone looking for a straight-shot trajectory of accelerated accomplishments. His most well-regarded films have defined generations, yet others in his filmography barely registered with anyone. Linklater hit and missed with both studio and indie films, critics and audiences. So why is he worth making a film about?
Black and Bernstein look for the secret sauce of Linklater not in some inherent brilliance, but rather in his hard work. The director (and often times writer) regularly earns plaudit for how effortlessly his films can replicate and recall our visible reality; the underlying assumption is often that such a conjuring requires no effort on his part. Clearly, such a statement could not be farther from the truth.
“Dream Is Destiny” features quite a remarkable coterie of guests paying tribute to Linklater, drawn from collaborators, critics and contemporaries. The documentary is far superior to 2014’s “21 Years: Richard Linklater,” a film with a hagiographic adoration of the director that never jived with his unassuming style. Black and Bernstein do not soften the edges or sugarcoat the realities of Linklater’s decades in filmmaking. At far too many points in his career, someone has doubted Linklater’s abilities – and often precisely because he is so difficult to neatly classify. Thankfully, he perseveres on the strength of his modest self-certainty and proves in true Texas style that the coastal – I mean, polar – extremes are not the only modes of operation for filmmakers. B+ /