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Boyhood (I) (2014)
12 years in the making.
Filmmaker(s): Richard Linklater

The film tells a story of a divorced couple trying to raise their young son. The story follows the boy for twelve years, from first grade at age 6 through 12th grade at age 17-18, and examines his relationship with his parents as he grows.

Boyhood (I) (2014)

Students, Teachers, Dogs

When I watch a reasonably well built film, I cruise at two levels. One is the excellence of how I am captured by the way the narrative unfolds in a world I am seduced into maintaining (and possibly cocreating). The other gliding level has to do with how well I value that world.

Sometimes this focuses on the story itself, but usually for me we are talking about how deeply the surrounding, often just implicit, world has affected me. And whether I want to incorporate it into my worlds in some way.

Herzog for instance. His early films are profoundly affecting. The best of these are those that have the least of him in them. Once he got control of the wild process he pioneered, you start to see his world become clear.

That world is much like his style: It has a stylized plateau from which it can observe itself, introspective and formal. But the ground of reality is capricious, dangerous. Fate is angry and you enter expecting to be hurt. Once a foot is placed here, you can never fully escape, you can only retreat temporarily to beautifully see the damage, or potential damage. I still watch the man.

I can trust him to engage me and take me where I would not go. Uncomfortable places. But it is real work afterward to tease out who I am and how my world is different.

I get something like this with Linklater. He is a natural cinematic storyteller, and has been from the beginning. And now we have this remarkable film. It really deserves a very, very long life and all the celebration I see.

It truly grabbed me and almost always I did not feel unfairly captured. Simple proximity beats drama any day if you can do it. Tension in repose has power; personal explosions can fill a screen quota but seldom touch. This does.

Oh, I have some quibbles about how the characters are tiered. We have our central kids who own the world we enter. This is as genuine as it gets in film. We have the two parents. Now this is background existence. We accept that because they are real as well, but real in a more filmic sense. Ethan Hawke is so trustworthy in this, I marvel. But we get a different world than that of the kids, and that’s deliberate. The third tier are the extra husbands, friends, other relatives, teachers and bosses.

Now these are ordinary narrative scaffolding, with traditional speeches borrowed from ordinary movies in tone and style. The kids are more real in this construction because the other tiers are not. But still, I got impatient as some of this went on. The real dilemma after entering Linklater‘s world and having it penetrate: what of it to use? What of it to respect as true in the tiers we build internally to live in?

Do I place it where the filmmaker has, as the way things are. The moment seizes us, and the best we can do is immerse and record? Linklater himself plays with these questions in some other projects and obliquely references them here as 'psychology.‘ And he sets distance from ordinary viewers by setting it in Texas.

A pledge allegiance to Texas?

Or do we take this, as I have today, as a background drama, being one reality among others that we gather to illuminate a life? I think this is what Malick intends in his similar project. Cinema must move relentlessly; this nature cannot be escaped. The viewer must accept the world in the way and at the pace the filmmaker decides.

This is a contract. But it comes with costs that prevent us mapping our real, true reality to that of a film that works to present a real, true one. We always have to shift it to one of the surrounding spheres we inhabit.

This is a three.

Posted in 2014

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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