Richard Linklater's filmmaking choices seem to defy basic patterns of authorship. From his debut with the inventive independent narrative Slacker, the Austin-based director's divergent films have included the sci-fi noir A Scanner Darkly, the socially conscious Fast Food Nation, the kid-friendly The School of Rock, the teen ensemble Dazed and Confused, and the twin romances Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Yet throughout his varied career spanning two decades, Linklater has maintained a sense of integrity while working within a broad range of budgets, genres, and subject matters.
Identifying a critical commonality among so much variation, David T. Johnson analyzes Linklater's preoccupation with the concept of time in many of his films, focusing on its many forms and aspects: the subjective experience of time and the often explicit, self-aware ways that characters discuss that experience; time and memory, and the ways that characters negotiate memory in the present; the moments of adolescence and early adulthood as crucial moments in time; the relationship between time and narrative in film; and how cinema, itself, may be becoming antiquated. While Linklater's focus on temporality often involves a celebration of the present that is not divorced from the past and future, Johnson argues that this attendance to the present also includes an ongoing critique of modern American culture. Crucially filling a gap in critical studies of this American director, the volume concludes with an interview with Linklater discussing his career.