The sun came out in London today and for some reason I was transported to another time. On a warm Sunday morning 7 or 8 years back, I remember going to The Other Cinema (a great little independent picture house on Rupert Street, sadly no longer with us) to see a Richard Linklater double bill of Slacker and Dazed and Confused. I can recall being pleased to have enticed two of my friends out to sit in the cinema for four hours on a Sunday morning. There were no more than 15 people in the auditorium, and there was a young, bearded guy in front of us eagerly devouring the liner notes of a recently purchased Television CD.
The first film, Slacker (1991), a plotless, deliberately inane shaggy dog story populated by a cast of weirdos, and often cited as the defining text of Generation X, was captivating enough; meandering, formally refreshing, and often dryly amusing. However, it was the second feature of the two, Dazed and Confused (1993), that really caught my imagination. I came out of the cinema feeling thoroughly alive, simultaneously thrilled by what I’d seen, and jealous that I myself wasn’t present at that climactic party scene.
In telling the story of the final day of a Texas High School in 1976, Linklater is consummately skilful in his deployment of an Altmanesque carousel of characters and plot threads, cleverly framed by the captivating temporal ticking time bomb of the end of the school year; when young minds and bodies are able to transfer their plans for mischief and merriment into practical, physical realities. Linklater shies away from none of the darker travails of teenage life; there is sex, drugs, violence, tears, comings-out-of-closets and existential angst by the bucketload, but everything is dealt with in a totally non-melodramatic, non-judgemental style. Precisely because Linklater is so unsentimental, so unmanipulative in his presentation of his callow characters, the emotional heft of Dazed and Confused is far more forceful than that of the legion of teen film contemporaries.
The film boasts an impressive, wide-ranging cast including Ben Affleck as a titanic asshole (what a surprise), Milla Jovovich as a total space cadet, and Adam Goldberg, who would go on to terrify millions as Chandler’s insane, fish-bothering roommate Eddie in Friends. Dazed and Confused also holds the glittering honour of being the only film I’ve seen Matthew McConaughey in in which I haven’t wanted to punch him in the face. His sleazy loiterer Wooderson gets the film’s best line
That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.
Sweet emotion indeed. If you haven’t seen this vibrant film, do so now, even you can’t find a bearded hipster with a Television CD to sit in front of you. My God, what a soundtrack too…