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It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988)

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Reviews: 7 user | 5 critic

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Title: It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988)

It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988) on IMDb 5.5/10

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Cast overview:
James Goodwin
Dan Kratochvil ...
(as Daniel Kratochvil)
Linda Finney
Tracy Crabtree
Linda Levine
Lisa Schiebold
Erin McAfee
D. Montgomery
Scott Van Horn
Daniel Johnston
Tammy Gomez
Keith McCormack


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Box Office


$3,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film is featured on second disc of the Slacker (1991) DVD released in 2004 by the Criterion Collection. See more »

Crazy Credits

Instead of listing the names of several family members featured in the film, it instead reads "Various Family" during the end credits. See more »


Features Gertrud (1964) See more »

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User Reviews

No plow, no book, no plot
29 August 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I have never had an experience quite like Richard Linklater's It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books. Intentionally alienating yet undeniably fascinating and innovative. The title was at first a mystery but after watching the film (equipped with a fantastic commentary by Linklater himself), I began to comprehend its meaning which is sort of saying, "you don't learn how to do something by reading books." The only true way to learn something as unique as filmmaking or plowing, one must put down the book and pick up a camera. Or a plow in this context.

A plow is never seen in this film. Nor is anything resembling a book. The film is a plot less excursion following an unnamed character (played by Linklater) leading a mundane, uninteresting life in Austin, Texas. He gets up, dresses himself, points a shotgun out the window and fires it a few times, wanders around town, goes on multiple train trips to travel up to Montana, and basically goes about his unconventional day.

One must see this film to truly comprehend it. Because the film has little to no dialog (and when it does, it's usually unimportant rambling), I turned on Linklater's commentary middle of the way through and listening to him speak is a very reassuring touch to a film already so unique and baffling. He provides us with not much backstory as to why the events are occurring, but dives into topics such as why he made this film in the first place and how he sympathizes with the youth of today who are trying to break free of typical life conventions.

I mentioned in my review of his official directorial debut, Slacker that by defining the word itself as, "people who are ultimately being responsible to themselves and not wasting their time in a realm of activity that has nothing to do with who they are or what they might be ultimately striving for" he is giving adolescence a tremendous amount of reassurance and confidence in their minds. He took a word, often equipped with a negative connotation and turned it into a positive definition about being true to one's self and one's personal goals.

Slacker was a picture that, the more I think about, the more I truly adore it. It is uniquely structured, stably paced, and very thoughtful and innovative. It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books is a different breed of plot less filmmaking. It offers no insights, no coherency, no drama, and no real message or purpose. It does however erect a soothing and primitive aspect from its Super 8, home video cinematography and its focus on the smaller aspects of life (a wobbly 7up can that makes a "cool" sound). It's fun, lightweight, sometimes frustrating, mostly unrewarding, and yet I kind of dug it.

Starring: Richard Linklater. Directed by: Richard Linklater.

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what does the title mean? poultrygeist2
Sorry, but this is a bad film. DustinFulgencio
THE Daniel Johnston? skaboy-3
Scandinavian Film Clip crappydoo
How does one obtain a copy of this flick? disgruntledpenguin
Not a great movie, BUT . . . djcameron

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