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  Dazed and Confused Bicentennial Blues
Year: 1993
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich, Shawn Andrews, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Marissa Ribisi, Michelle Burke, Cole Hauser, Christine Harnos, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Matthew McConaughey, Nicky Katt
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's May 28th 1976, the last day of school in this Texan town, and everyone is looking forward to the holidays. Well, almost everyone, because the seniors, both male and female, are out to perform their traditional task of victimising the freshmen, and after Jodi Kramer (Michelle Burke) tells the lead jocks not to be too hard on her little brother Mitch (Wiley Wiggins) she might as well have signed his figurative death warrant, and they waste no time in telling him he's about to have a summer of getting his ass beaten with their specially made paddles...

The next thing writer and director Richard Linklater did after predicting the exact pattern of internet chat for decades to come in Slacker was another film where people sit around and shoot the breeze, only this time there was the looming threat of a story to offer some kind of cohesion to the ensemble of characters we were watching. The cast at the time were all unknowns, and Linklater proved he had quite an eye for picking actors with promise, so if not every one of them fulfilled that potential, seeing Dazed and Confused now you were likely to notice at least someone you recognised in each scene, even if you couldn't put a name to them all.

Although sold as a comedy, it was as much that as its most obvious influence, George Lucas's seventies megahit American Grafitti, which meant the classic rock soundrack was there, the laughs were there, but a serious moment was never far away as the mood of this particular time and place were meticulously recreated, the days of Linklater's youth. Which might have ended up with the film meaning a huge amount to him and practically nobody else: the Mitch character was his surrogate and the whole experience looked to be trying to convey precisely what it was like in that pinpointed location in space and time. Yet sometimes a work like this can be so personal that it can find a universality which audiences can relate to, which was the case here.

Well, not in every case, as the initiation rites were somewhat baffling for those whose culture never bothered with such things, and indeed there was a heavy dose of homosexual aggression in the most enthusiastic seniors' determination to pound some younger asses, granted it was with a length of wood rather than a length of anything else, but still you had to wonder at the mechanics of such a macho mindset and what they were unintentionally revealing about themselves. This pecking order was very important, but it wasn't the be all and end all as we traced various teens as they ventured into the night in search of a party since the one they were planning was scuppered by the partyholder's parents finding out accidentally. As it turns out, Mitch finds he can move between various strata with unexpected ease.

He has to suffer first, but becomes our viewpoint for the evening, and gets to exact a form of revenge into the bargain. Mitch finds a friend in senior "Pink" Floyd (Jason London), our other "protagonist" (if such a claim could be made for any of those we encounter), a football player with the dilemma his coach has ordered him to sign an abstinence contract or he's off the team, not great when you want to party with your friends. This brought up two motifs: the pot smoking which made the movie a favourite among nineties stoners (Rory Cohcrane in particular appears to be heading for a marijuana overdose), and the fact that although they have a vague idea of the inexorable approach of their future, none of them have any conception of what really awaits them, never mind what they're going to do about it. Even the most apparently sensible ones, Mike (Adam Goldberg) and Tony (Anthony Rapp) are soon caught up in wanting to have fun and damn the consequences, which was what lent Dazed and Confused a poignancy it's cautious to be overt about to until the final shot.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Richard Linklater  (1960 - )

Skilled indie director, specialising in dialogue-driven comedy-drama. Linklater's 1989 debut Slacker was an unusual but well-realised portrait of disaffected 20-something life in his home town of Austin, Texas, while many consider Dazed and Confused, his warm but unsentimental snapshot of mid-70s youth culture, to be one of the best teen movies ever made. Linklater's first stab at the mainstream - comedy western The Newton Boys - was a disappointment, but Before Sunrise, SubUrbia, Tape and the animated Waking Life are all intelligent, intriguing pictures.

Scored a big hit with mainstream comedy School of Rock, and reunited with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for the acclaimed sequels Before Sunset and Before Midnight. The Bad News Bears was a weak comedy remake, but Linklater bounced back with the animated Philip K. Dick adaptation A Scanner Darkly, junk food industry satire Fast Food Nation and true life murder tale Bernie. His intimate epic Boyhood, filmed over twelve years, earned him some of the most acclaim of his career. The nostalgic follow-up Everybody Wants Some!! was less of a hit.

 
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