Richard Linklater’s mind sounds blown.
"They built a 30 foot-tall moontower in the middle of the gallery," he says. "It’s pretty cool."
Linklater is talking about the internationally known art museum Centre Pompidou in Paris, which is presenting "Richard Linklater: Filming Time as Material," a career retrospective and exhibition on the Austin filmmaker and Austin Film Society founder.
It’s the afternoon of Nov. 23, and Linklater is calling from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, about to head to Paris with his family.
The moontower is, of course, one of the key elements in "Dazed and Confused," one of 26 Linklater films feted at the Pompidou, which opened the exhibit on Nov. 25.
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The retrospective includes an exhibition of original photographs, posters, documents and videos, including a special short film commissioned for the exhibit.
Exploding out of the nascent Austin film scene in 1991 with "Slacker," which is considered one of the key films of the 1990s, Linklater, with filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Steven Soderbergh, embodied the 1990s independent film boom. His signature, rambling style, full of detailed character work and scads of dialogue, has made him a singular voice in American motion pictures.
Along with "Slacker," Linklater is perhaps best known for the 1993 comedy "Dazed and Confused"; the Before trilogy — "Before Sunrise" (1995), "Before Sunset" (2004), and "Before Midnight" (2013); the 2014 drama "Boyhood," which was filmed in pieces over 12 years; and his most commercially successful film, the 2003 comedy "School of Rock."
"Richard Linklater has been following a distinctive route from his very first films that makes his work one-of-its-kind," Judith Revault-D’Allonnes, Centre Pompidou film programmer and Linklater retrospective and exhibition curator, said in an email.
"He has always experimented inside popular film forms and imagined dizzying narrative and time structures," Revault-D’Allonnes continued. "Think 'Slacker’ and ’Dazed and Confused’ that enclose paradoxically in a single day-long time frame the whole spirit, the zeitgeist of the 1990s and of the mid-1970s. Or consider ‘Boyhood,’ a masterpiece in time construction and restitution, an epic feature-film shot over 12 years to render the universal yet mysterious and moving experience of growing up from childhood till adulthood."
Linklater says he constructed the short — "Ou en etes-vous, Richard Linklater?" the Center's translation of which is "Where Do You Stand Today, Richard Linklater?" — the way he made all of his narrative work.
"It’s scripted, wall-to-wall dialogue," Linklater says. "The only difference is that I’m playing a character in it."
Linklater also will present two films of his choosing by other filmmakers.
He picked two films about Texas and Texans: "Tender Mercies" starring Robert Duvall, written by the late Texas screenwriter Horton Foote and directed by Bruce Beresford; and the underknown "Last Night at the Alamo," directed by Eagle Pennell, and written and co-produced by Kim Henkel. Both Pennell and Henkel were independent Texas filmmakers.
"Both movies have plenty of cowboy hats," Linklater says, dryly. "But I think both give a fuller picture of Texas films. Interestingly, the folks at the Centre hadn’t seen (the fairly mainstream) ‘Tender Mercies,’ which surprised me."
The exhibit is also a chance for Parisians and European visitors to see Linklater’s work, which he says was often hard to find across the Atlantic.
"A lot of my stuff has not been seen all that much in France," Linklater says. "‘Fast Food Nation’ and ‘A Scanner Darkly’ seem to be the big ones there. They like the critiques of America," he adds with a laugh.
Austin Film Society director Rebecca Campbell was there when the exhibit opened on Monday.
"There was a room about time, which was devoted to ‘Boyhood,’ a room about rebellion, which was about ‘Dazed and Confused,’ and a room about the American nightmare, which was about ‘Fast Food Nation,’" Campbell says.
A room in the gallery is devoted to the Austin Film Society, the Austin nonprofit founded by Linklater and devoted to the creation and promotion of Texas film. It includes the two-screen arthouse movie theater AFS Cinema and Austin Studios, a 20-acre production compound. AFS will celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2020 and recently opened the Creative Media Center, a new, more public-facing facility.
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"It was pretty overwhelming to see Rick (Linklater) talk about how proud he was to see the AFS represented and how that and the moontower symbolize the community that nurtured him," Campbell says. "It was epic to see this stuff in an international setting in a world-class museum."
Campbell says the film society opened its archives to the Centre, including paper fliers, footage from the Texas film Hall of Fame honors and footage of various people introducing movies at AFS screenings.
"The exhibit is a tribute to Austin’s greatness," Campbell says.
The exhibit runs through Jan. 6. Information: www.centrepompidou.fr.