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

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Richard Linklater (concept)
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A nameless young character goes into travels to the country, meeting some acquaintances and strangers as well... See more » | Add synopsis »
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Competition: Win 'Before Midnight' on DVD
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User Reviews:
No plow, no book, no plot See more (7 total) »


  (in credits order)

Directed by
Richard Linklater 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Richard Linklater  concept

Produced by
Richard Linklater .... producer
Cinematography by
Richard Linklater 
Film Editing by
Richard Linklater 
Sound Department
Eric Friend .... sound editor
Brecht Andersch .... thanks
Scott Christian .... thanks
Matt Crowley .... thanks
Lee Daniel .... thanks
Keith Dubois .... thanks
Hugh Gapet .... thanks
Timothy Rich Healy .... thanks
Diane Herrera .... thanks
Dick Krieger .... thanks
Denise Lablonde .... thanks
Eric Lord .... thanks
Kate Marohn .... thanks
Ann Meredith .... thanks
George Morris .... thanks
Jamie Ra Pickens .... thanks
Gary Price .... thanks
David Ray .... thanks
Ted Schiebold .... thanks
Suzanne Schope .... thanks
Beverly Sternberg .... thanks
Ann Torrez .... thanks
Jesse Torrez .... thanks
Tony Lee Towers .... thanks
Martha Wise .... thanks
Eric Wolfe .... thanks

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

USA:85 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »

Did You Know?

This film is featured on second disc of the Slacker (1991) DVD released in 2004 by the Criterion Collection.See more »
Movie Connections:
Features The Killing (1956)See more »


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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful.
No plow, no book, no plot, 29 August 2012
Author: Steve Pulaski from United States

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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