Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater

‘Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater’

The 25th Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival is on in Chicago through the weekend, and the Chicagoist‘s Rob Christopher notes that programmer Patrick Friel has “managed to pack over 60 works from across the globe into the festival’s schedule, ranging from the austere to the goofy.” Onion City 2013 closes on Sunday with a “Special Sneak Preview” at the Music Box of Gabe Klinger’s Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater, which has just premiered in the Venice Film Festival‘s Classics program. This’ll be the first screening in the U.S.


“Benning is 70; Linklater 53,” notes Nina Metz in the Tribune. For his debut feature, “Klinger was able to convince them to meet up in April to talk, knock around and maybe play a little baseball…. ‘What sparked the idea?’ Klinger said when I tracked him down by email in Venice. ‘Something about these two filmmakers being different and alike. That they are both former college baseball players also intrigued me. And also that I like them very much both as people and filmmakers. And that their films embody so much of America, its follies and its splendors.'” You can also listen (17’07”) to Gabe talk about his film in a podcast recorded in Venice.

As the Flames Rose

‘As the Flames Rose’

“In this year’s Onion City Festival of Experimental Film and Video, several of my favorite pieces blur altogether the distinction between narrative and experimental movies,” writes Ben Sachs in the Reader. “Tellingly, two of these—Morning of Saint Anthony’s Day and As the Flames Rose—were written or cowritten by João Pedro Rodrigues, a Portuguese filmmaker who divides his time between narrative features and experimental shorts.” Let’s note here that Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata will be in New York on September 16, midway through the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s presentation of The Last Time I Saw Macao (2012), running from September 13 through 27. That night, the 16th, the FSLC will present Beyond Macao: Shorts by Joaõ Pedro Rodrigues + Joaõ Rui Guerra da Mata.

Back to Ben Sachs: “After Mike Leigh and Terence Davies, [Ben] Rivers (Slow Action, Two Years at Sea) may be England’s greatest living filmmaker, which makes any new film of his is a must-see.” The new film, screening at Onion City, is Phantoms of a Libertine. Whether or not you’re in Chicago, do check out Ben Sachs‘s overview of the full program.

Update, 9/9: Stephen Dalton in the Hollywood Reporter on Double Play: “Gabe Klinger, who teaches film in Chicago, maintains a politely detached observational eye, leading to a sometimes arid combination of austere visuals and real-time conversation. This is clearly a deliberate formal choice, with a nod to Linklater’s own rambling and talk-heavy films, but it risks letting some sweet stuff slip away with its lack of guiding authorial voice…. Klinger shoots with quiet confidence and an able team, including crew members who have previously worked for Linklater and fellow Austin, Texas, icon Terrence Malick.” All in all, Dalton finds the film needs a little more “breadth and warmth.”

Update, 9/11: Yoana Pavlova interviews Gabe Klinger for the Festivalists.

Update, 9/12: Benning and Linklater “talk about film, yes, but they talk about sports, too, and the bemusing ways in which the themes of their films entangle and intermingle with life itself,” writes Gregory Hess for the Examiner. “The dynamic between Linklater and Benning is a part teacher-student, and part father-son. The two are shown throwing around a baseball at Linklater’s country home, but their ongoing conversation takes a more academic turn when they put down their mitts and sit for lunch. Benning, 70, wears the air of teacher and elder comfortably, posing questions to Linklater the way he might to a student during office hours. Linklater, 53, comes across as talky and gregarious, his still-youthful drawl sounding nearly exactly as it did in the opening scene of his breakthrough film Slacker in 1991. Throughout, Klinger peppers in snippets from the directors’ films, occasionally cutting multiple films together into playful montages that reinforce wonderfully Double Play’s themes of the passage of time (of special interest is the brief glimpse of footage we see from Linklater’s upcoming film Boyhood, a coming-of-age film which has been shot over the course of ten years and depicts the characters aging in one year increments.)”

Update, 9/14: “It’s as enjoyable as only a good carefully chewed over conversation between creative equals can be,” writes Sight & Sound editor Nick James.

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