It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988): Linklater’s Modest Debut

It's_Impossible_to_Learn_to_Plow_by_Reading_Books_posterReleased in 1988, “It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books” is the first feature made by the gifted, Texas-based director Richard Linklater, whose latest film, “Boyhood” (now in theaters), is a masterpiece.

In this minimal, non-traditional tale, Linklater is the protagonist, a young man traveling about the country and meeting with various people, when not taking part in various mundane activities. There is no real plot or climax, and Linklater’s character does not change much throughout the film.

Shot on Super 8 mm, the film took one year to shoot and another year to be edited at a public-access cable TV station, with Linklater starring and handling all production duties.

It's_Impossible_to_Learn_to_Plow_by_Reading_Books_7_linklaterThe film is significant in the sense that it establishes most of Linklater’s thematic and visual concerns: It shows his trademark style of minimal camera movement, lack of conventional narrative, the theme of traveling with no particular direction in mind. These idiosyncratic issues would be explored in greater detail in his future and better projects.

The film, which did not enjoy widespread theatrical release, aroused interest only after Linklater made a splash with his second feature, “Slackers,” in 1991.  It is available on DVD and Blu-ray as a bonus feature on “Slacker” from the Criterion Collection.



About Linklater

It's_Impossible_to_Learn_to_Plow_by_Reading_Books_5_linklaterBorn in Houston, Texas, on July 30, 1960, Linklater is the son of Diane Margaret (née Krieger), who taught at Sam Houston State University, and Charles W. Linklater, III. He attended Bellaire High School and studied at Sam Houston State University, dropping out to work on an off-shore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

He developed a passion for film through repeated visits to a repertory theater in Houston. He used his savings to buy a Super-8 camera, a projector, and editing equipment, and moved to Austin, Texas.

Linklater enrolled in  Austin Community College in the fall of 1984 to study film.  A year later, he founded the Austin Film Society with frequent collaborator, Lee Daniels mentors was George Morris, former critic for the Soho Weekly News, who had relocated to Austin and taught film there.

It's_Impossible_to_Learn_to_Plow_by_Reading_Books_4_linklaterLinklater has acknowledged the influenced of Robert Bresson, Yasujiro Ozu, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Von Sternberg, Carl Theodor Dreyer, and especially Scorsese’s “Raging Bull.”