Film Review: Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater (USA, 2014)


This documentary is essential viewing for budding filmmakers and young creatives alike. A quiet, patient film by Gabe Klinger, it explores the friendship and work of filmmakers Richard Linklater and James Benning.

Combining filmed discussions between the pair over a few days together in Texas and extensive archival footage, Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater is a tribute to their talents. It might seem at first that Linklater and Benning are an unlikely pairing; Benning continues his avant-garde work, remaining virtually unknown to the mainstream film culture, while Linklater has achieved success on the borders of the Hollywood mainstream. Linklater first received wide acclaim with his independent film Slacker (1991) and has gone on to create the Before trilogy and the recent production Boyhood (2014).

However, Double Play reveals how their shared passion for film (and baseball) formed the basis for an enduring friendship that began in 1985, when Linklater invited Benning to be his first guest at his newly formed film screening society in Austin, Texas. Their dynamic is interesting, the energetic Linklater contrasted with the more reclusive Benning. The documentary sketches their stories through dialogue, revealing that Linklater was an oilrig worker who came to filmmaking after becoming obsessed with cinema and that the films of Maya Deren inspired Benning to pick up a camera.

Gabe Klinger gently illuminates these connections and contrasts between these two fascinating men. A beautifully made and shot film, it blends ‘casual’ moments of the two eating lunch together and playing baseball, to more formal situations, when they speak together at Linklater’s film society event. Klinger explores their creative differences, interspersing their frank conversations on the difficulties of film making with footage from their films, to underscore their discussion.

Covering topics from the use of narrative to the passage of time, it is a rare opportunity to observe the process of filmmaking from the inside.  A conversation heavy film, Klinger aims it towards those with an interest in film production, employing a relatively minimalist style. It focuses mainly on Linklater’s Before trilogy, the three instalments filmed over a twenty year period with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, and Benning’s 1984 documentary American Dreams. However, their other projects, such as Benning’s cabins and painting and Linklater’s latest project Boyhood are also touched upon.

Double Play deservedly won the prize for best documentary on cinema at the Venice film festival, a feat for the low-budget film, completed with the aid of a Kickstarter campaign.  At just 70 minutes long, this is a charming and quiet documentary that has much to say. It is definitely worth viewing, either as an entrance into the work of these filmmakers, or an exploration of it.


Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater will be released on the 16th of May on iTunes and Video on Demand. The film will also have a premiere screening at the Sydney Film Festival next month.


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