Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dazed and Confused

My oldest son Michael told me to watch Dazed and Confused (1993), Richard Linklater’s first effort at directing. Linklater has an uncanny ability to portray real and believable characters. I have especially enjoyed Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004), about two would-be lovers and their relationship at different points in their lives. A Scanner Darkly (2006) was a truly innovative film using rotoscope, while The School of Rock (2003), with Jack Black, was eminently fun.

In Dazed and Confused we have teenagers on the last day of school before summer vacation. Some are graduating seniors, others are freshman, and at least one is a drop out trying to relive former high school days. (Played by Matthew McConaughey, he gives a creepy performance, which is I think the point). Some students are looking forward to their teenage years while others are looking back. They cruise around town and attend various parties and get drunk and smoke dope. The boys are looking for sex and the girls are not too far behind.

One thinks of American Graffiti (1973). In that film some of the characters were looking forward to a life beyond high school and their town. For the most part, none of the characters in Dazed and Confused look beyond their present lives. The idea that there is a life beyond the town has occurred only to a couple of them. Even though many of them complain about their town, none thinks about leaving.

There are certainly some characters in the film to dislike-- especially the senior boy (played by Ben Affleck) who over enjoyed initiating freshmen by slapping them with a paddle—most are in their own ways versions of people we’ve known. The pothead Slater (Rory Cochrane)and the sultry dew-eyes Michelle (Milla Jovovich) and the girl with explosive red hair (Marissa Ribisi) were especially memorable.

The young people in this film, living in the wake of the 1960s and the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnamese conflict, seem largely unaware of, or at least indifferent to, the problems of the outer world. They just drift, aimlessly, and one assumes that sooner or later reality and life will dawn.

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