• Orion Classics
I was working at Cellophane Square in 1991 when Richard Linklater released Slacker, his second feature film (after his little-seen 1988 debut It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books).

Everyone was talking about it, so I dropped by the Varsity one day after work to catch a matinee screening. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the theater: my coworker, Kels. So I had some unexpected, but welcome company.

Afterward, I could tell by the happy look on his face that he liked it. Or maybe he was just in a good mood. In any case, he wasn't the argumentative type, and I didn't want to bring him down in any way, so I kept my trap shut. Because I couldn't stand it. If you had asked me at the time if I thought Linklater would go on to become a filmmaker of substance—and not just a flash-in-the-pan phenomenon—I would've said, "Don't bet on it." And I would've been wrong.

Not long after that chance encounter, Kels moved to Austin. I don't know if Slacker represented a deciding factor, but I assumed it did (he has since relocated to Tennessee). By contrast, the film made me want to stay as far away from that city as possible. I've since changed my tune, though I haven't made it down there yet.

Ace cinematographer Lee Daniel, who shot Slacker, also shot Boyhood.

Twenty-three years have passed, and I have yet to revisit Slacker. It's possible that it wouldn't bother me so much now, but I'm in no rush when there are so many more attractive options out there. Although I wouldn't say it offended me, I didn't find any of the characters especially interesting or amusing. They just seemed sad and quirky. And that may have been the point, but to laugh at them seemed cruel. It's kind of the way I feel whenever I watch a Harmony Korine film, and I can think of few American filmmakers who remind me of Linklater less.

  • Gramercy Pictures
Since that first disappointing experience, I've seen every film he's made, with the exception of Fast Food Nation, and I've liked most of them. Considering the length of his filmography, that's a pretty good record. I remember, for instance, waiting in a line that snaked around the Neptune just so I could see his third film, Dazed and Confused, at SIFF '94 with Linklater in attendance. It was worth the wait, and that's when I decided, "Hey! I like this guy." I even liked Waking Life, which I saw with a group of friends at the Broadway Market Cinemas (R.I.P.). Two of them hated it, but I've thought a lot about lucid dreaming ever since—Linklater planted that seed in my head. Which made him a good choice, I thought, for a suitably tripped-out adaptation of Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly (both films feature rotoscoping, in which he animated live-action sequences after the fact).

Ironically, Boyhood arrives only a year after Before Midnight, the rare Linklater effort to actively irritate me, which took me by surprise since I had found Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) such agreeable company in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, the first films in the "Before" series. Over the years, unfortunately, Celine had become resentful of Jesse's more successful career. I couldn't wait for the film to end so I could get away from her—a reaction Delpy has never elicited in me before. That isn't to suggest that Linklater had failed to create a plausible scenario; just that time had hardened Celine into someone with whom I could no longer sympathize or relate.

I had no such problem with the new film. The studio has requested that members of the press refrain from going into detail about Boyhood, which doesn't open until July, so I'll just say that it may be Linklater's masterpiece. Twelve years in the making, it features Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and newcomer Ennar Coltrane. There's nothing particularly special about Mason, a suburban latch-key kid, and that's precisely what makes him compelling. It's like a condensed version of Michael Apted's 7 Up series; just watching this ordinary boy navigate everyday life year after year becomes a pleasure in and of itself. Highly recommended.

Boyhood plays the Egyptian Theater on May 31 at 5pm (director in attendance) and the Harvard Exit on June 1 at 8pm. Unfortunately, advance tickets are gone, but some standby spots may be available. Find more SIFF info here.