Apollo 10 1/2: Richard Linklater’s marvelous time capsule [critique]

Richard Linklater makes his Roma. By recounting the space adventure fantasies of a kid growing up in sixties Texas, he transforms his own childhood memories into a soft fluffy daydream.

A 50-year-old details in voiceover this incredible childhood memory: in 1969, in Houston, Texas, when he was in CM1, NASA emissaries chose him to test a lunar module and go into space , a few weeks before Neil Armstrong’s big trip. The reason was very simple: the first module they had built was too small and could only accommodate one child… It’s nonsense, of course, an apocryphal delirium, nevertheless narrated with the utmost seriousness of the world by the grown-up protagonist, in a cool drawling voice of sympathetic slacker stoner (that of Jack Black). From this argument, Richard Linklater could have built a film of children’s SF adventures à la Amblin, a kind of neo-Explorers. But this starting point is a false lead: little Stanley’s dream of space conquest is above all a pretext for the director of Boyhood to fall back into childhood. Like almost all the filmmakers of his generation (Tarantino, Sorrentino, Paul Thomas Anderson…), Linklater wanted to make his Rome. His tree of life. A dive into the reinvented and sublimated world of his youth.

The first 50 minutes of the film (a totally extravagant duration, knowing that the whole thing is only 1h38) are thus entirely devoted to the meticulous enumeration of occupations, hobbies, TV series, objects, various pop artefacts, clothes, posters, films seen in theaters or at the drive-in, songs heard on the radio, etc., which constituted the mental and cultural universe of a Texan kid growing up in the suburbs of Houston, in the first months of the year 1969. An exercise in systematic memorial recreation à la Perec (I remember). Close to wallowing in pure nostalgia boomerLinklater acrobatically avoids this pitfall, largely thanks to the choice of animation: the mixture used here of rotoscoping (a technique he had already experimented with in waking life and A Scanner Darkly), traditional 2D and catch performancegive to Apollo 10½ (let’s forget its awful French subtitle) a strange floating, unreal, fluffy dimension. Stanley’s little world has the somewhat artificial, vaguely delirious outlines that things take on when you look at them as you are about to plunge into a deep sleep. Pictures from movies or TV shows known by heart – 2001, a space odyssey, The Wizard of Oz, presenter Walter Cronkite commenting on the Apollo 11 moon landing – which are usually so familiar, suddenly look a bit strange, repainted in the colors of memory. It’s less a historical reenactment than a colorful phantasmagoria, where a ride in the roller coaster of AstroWorld (the local Disneyland) becomes, for some wide-eyed kids, an epic even more magical than the first steps of man. on the moon.

Beneath his runny Texas geek looks, Richard Linklater, as usual, has built a powerful little theoretical and poetic machine. Expert in “child-sized” films (Boyhood), in miniature odysseys (the trilogy Before), in recreations of micro-events lost in the limbo of time (rebel generation), he tracks here the fleeting, elusive moment, where memory plays a trick on us, where the imagination, fiction, fantasy, come to pirate the reality of our lived experiences, and reshape our memories as they please. Did little Stanley even see Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar ground? Where had he fallen asleep watching TV that night? He himself no longer knows and will never know anything about it. But he chose to pretend he traveled through space. How not to believe it? From our sofa, we manage to travel in time.

Apollo 10½ : The rockets of my childhood. Country United States. Of Richard Linklater. With Milo Coy, Jack Black, Lee Eddy… Duration 1h38

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