Documentaries about directors appear to be the new music docs, with a large number recently making their way onto cinema screens and VOD. Director Richard Linklater has been the subject of no less than three documentaries in just the last couple of years: Double Play, 21 Years and now Dream is Destiny. What seems somewhat peculiar about this fact is that Linklater does not seem like the ideal candidate for one documentary, let alone three. Sure, he’s an excellent director, who has a number of highly noteworthy and superb films under his belt, but rarely does anyone seem to find an interesting angle through which to approach him as an interview subject.
Gabe Klinger’s approach with Double Play was to actually take the focus off Linklater to some degree, with the film focusing more on James Benning, a fascinating and almost enigmatic figure in cinema and video art. Dream is Destiny though, takes a far more straight forward approach, and the resulting documentary feels a tad anaemic as a result.
A documentary like De Palma succeeded in large part due to the director’s raconteur-like nature, and David Lynch: The Art Life was a fascinating watch because Lynch is so puzzling and often mysterious. Linklater’s defining characteristics, though, appear to be that he’s affable, collaborative and very pragmatic. Great traits for a director – and arguably anybody at all – but they’re hardly the kind of thing that will light a powder keg under an otherwise straightforward documentary about a director’s career.
Director’s Louis Black and Karen Bernstein do a perfectly adequate job of assembling the requisite talking heads, clips from critics talking about his films, newspaper clippings, some excellent behind the scenes footage – especially what we see of the making of Slacker – and various clips from the movies, but there’s little digging beneath the surface or diversions from the more obvious paths.
Black and Bernstein take the laid back and seemingly casual approach of Linklater’s films with Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny, but they miss the thing that has always made Linklater stand out from what could easily be a career of easy going hangout movies. His films frequently tap into a deep humanism to reveal complex emotions and ideas, and the relaxed veneer masks a technical rigour that helps his films rise above more roughly produced indie pictures – hearing Linklater talk about dolly shots on Slacker is a reminder how that film set the mould for indie films in some ways but not others.
A perfectly enjoyable trip down memory lane with Linklater, Dream is Destiny will be an entertaining watch for fans of his work, but anyone looking for anything particularly deep or revealing will no doubt feel more than a little short changed.