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  Clerks Live To Serve
Year: 1994
Director: Kevin Smith
Stars: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Walter Flanagan, Scott Schiaffo, Al Berkowitz, David Klein, Ed Hapstack, Pattijean Csik, Ernest O'Donnell, Kimberly Loughran
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Dante (Brian O'Halloran) wakes up as he falls out of his bedroom closet when the phone rings, and he dazedly answers. It's his boss on the line, telling him he has to go into work at the convenience store on today of all days, his day off. Dante is not at all happy about this, but agrees anyway, and soon is opening up the shop, although someone has stuck chewing gum in the locks of the shutters so he can't raise them, and has to hang up a big sign made with shoe polish and a sheet telling potential customers that they are not closed, despite appearances. Dante's first customer buys a coffee and asks if he can drink it there, but whenever a person enters the shop to buy cigarettes, he produces a cancerous lung from his bag and lectures them on the dangers of smoking. Just the latest in the trials of Dante's life...

In the nineties, two American independent films from debuting writer-directors emerged as a couple of the defining works of the decade, and both relied heavily on their dialogue for their appeal. One was Reservoir Dogs, and another was Kevin Smith's Clerks, which was not so much as remotely as violent but featured even more X-rated talk that Quentin Tarantino's effort. Legend has it that Smith's film was funded mostly with credit cards, the relatively tiny budget coming in at about $27,000, and every penny of that is on screen, i.e., it's one of the cheapest looking movies of its era with 16mm black and white photography distinguishing its instantly recognisable appearance.

Although it comes across as a series of sketches, there is a story here, and as with a lot of Smith's films there's a sweet faith in the power of romance in spite of the ribald nature of the rest of the production. That said, it's the jokes that made director's name and led to a series of strangely similar follow-ups, yet many fans think Clerks was never bettered, and it certainly set the template for the future. The importance of the double act as a form of male friendship is explored as it would be again, here straight man Dante and his smartass friend Randal (Jeff Anderson) who works in the video rental store next door providing the plot with its humorous chat.

After ascertaining that the anti-smoker customer is in fact a salesman for a chewing gum that helps give up smoking and throwing him out, Dante can settle into a day of feeling sorry for himself, his favourite pasttime. His girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) arrives to cheer him up, but the revelation that she's sucked thirty-six dicks in her lifetime comes as a, uh, blow to Dante's confidence (he was the thirty-seventh) and prompts him to rethink his relationship with her. She leaves, Randal arrives and the talk of Star Wars can begin, with the conversation of what happened to the Death Star construction workers in Return of the Jedi providing the signature dialogue, now beloved of Smith's fans. Dante's day then has to navigate a funeral, a hockey game on the roof of the store that lasts all of twelve minutes, and most important of all, the news that his high school girlfriend who he still carries a torch for is getting married. It all ends disgustingly, yet the humour is what carries it; it may have been an amateur indie with performances to match, but its laughter quotient saves the day.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Kevin Smith  (1970 - )

American writer-director, by turns self-indulgent and hilarious. His first film Clerks brought him cult success, but he followed it with the big studio flop Mallrats. Chasing Amy was a return to form, and Dogma courted religious controversy. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was a tribute to the double act who appeared in every one of his films up until then (Silent Bob was played by Smith himself). Jersey Girl was a conventional romantic comedy that disappointed most of his fans.

Smith is also a writer of comic books, both established characters (Daredevil, Green Arrow) and his own creations. An attempt to turn Clerks into a cartoon series was a failure - but it was damn funny all the same. Fans of the characters could console themselves with the sequel Clerks II. He then offered sex comedy Zack and Miri Make a Porno to mixed reviews, and Cop Out to downright terrible ones which led him to much public complaining. Self-proclaimed horror movie Red State, however, won him some of the best reactions of his career, though audiences were fewer in number.

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