(Originally published in Boston Magazine, 1996)
I talked about movies, music, and becoming an artist with Richard Linklater, the writer-director of Slacker (1991, Detour Filmproduction), Dazed and Confused (1993, Alphaville Films), and Before Sunrise (1995, Castle Rock Entertainment), who was in town recently to talk about his new movie, SubUrbia (Castle Rock Entertainment). Based on a play by Eric Bogosian, SubUrbia shows a long night in the life of a group of twenty year olds in suburban Burnfield.
Rebecca Nemser: Your last movie, Before Sunrise, was light and romantic, so I was surprised at how dark and alienated SubUrbia is. The characters aren’t just dazed and confused anymore. They’re wounded and damaged.
Richard Linklater: Yeah, the characters are more poignantly tragic, and it’s confrontational too. I was glad to find my way into that. I felt a real need to do something to grow as a filmmaker.
R: I just saw Rent, where all the characters want to be artists. Everyone in your movie wants to be an artist too; there’s a musician, an aspiring video artist, a performance artist a la Laurie Anderson. Is this a trend?
RL: It’s unfulfilled longing. It’s being young. Meet me at 20. I don’t know what I want to do. I kind of want to write. You want to be a artist, to express what’s going on in your life. It’s a way to lose yourself in your discontent. Otherwise you’d just go out and shoot and vandalize. Art is more internal. And there is a Rent connection. One of the characters from Dazed and Confused was the New York Mark.
R: How did you get started making films?
RL: I was an English major, and I bought a camera and started shooting, and realized that’s what I’m going to do: film. I’d always been writing, and suddenly I saw everything cinematically. I dedicated my life to cinema. I started watching three films a day, editing, writing, filming with my super 8 camera. Six years later, Slacker.
R: Eric Bogosian came from Woburn and there are some Boston references in the movie — the Orpheum Theater, for example. But Burnfield could be anywhere — it’s a real nowhere landscape.
RL: That’s what America is — a big strip mall. Most places look like that now.
R: I loved the song at the beginning of the movie, Town Without Pity.
RL: Going into a movie, there are several scenes that stand out emotionally — a shot or a musical combination. Otherwise I figure it out as I go along. That song was in my mind from the beginning. I’m a Gene Pitney fan. I’ve always liked that song.
R: The endings of your films are always ambiguous.
RL: It’s hard to get away with ambiguous endings in films today, but that’s life. A really major element of life is mixed feelings.
by Rebecca Nemser for rebeccanemser.com