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Month
September
Year
1994
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Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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"Dazed and Confused" [1 993. Directed by Richard Linklater. Cast JasonLondon.RoryCochrane.WileyWiggins, Adam Gold berg. Gramercy Pictures MCA Video. 97 mins.] Onedoesn't know whether to praise Richard Linklater or just lock him in a vault and force-feed him endless reruns of Father Knows Best. His latest film, Dazed and Confused, is simultaneously a personal step forward and a socio-political step backward. It's more polished than his 1991 sleeper, Slacker, but that earlier film is more vitally al i ve. The acting in this film is also moderately betten but again, Slacker's sheer amateu rism crackled with energetic intensity. Most important, Linklater' s hand is more assured here, but the anarchie buoyancy of Slacker is more fun to watch. Somewhat like Spike Lee at an equally early point of his career, Linklater has fallen into a sophomore slump. It is, however, a modest slump because Dazed and Confused is only a little more mannered than one might have expected from a squint-eyed devotee of fellow minimalist, Jim Jarmusch. It's May 28, 1 976: The last day of classes and star quarterback, Randy "Pink" Floyd (Jason London), is in the midst of a dilemma. He has to decide whether or not to sign his coach 's drug pledge and lead his senior team to a state football championship. With a nickname like his, you know it's going to be a struggle to the death. Meanwhile, incoming f reshman , st bean and stringy-haired Mitch (Wiley Wiggins), is in fear of the future students' "initiation" into the high school's hip inner-circle: An unmerciful paddling that involves hair-raising chases through the neighborhood. Then again, budding intellectual, Mike (Adam Goldberg), has a f art reac hing difficulty. He's decided after wrestling mightily with his conscience that he doesn't really want to be an attorney for the downtrodden and homeless. What he really wants is to dance. Finally, the perpetually stoned Slater (Rory Cochrane), isn't confused about anything. This is because he's too busy being dazed by the wonder of It all. He is both the alpha and omega of this film's story-line. Linklater throws in the obligatory cute girlfriends, but they're only window-dressing. What he's primarily concemed about is whether or not this quad of misfits is ultimately going to see the proverbial light at the end of the secondary school tunnel. His only problem is that he's not too subtle about the problems he addresses, nor is he any better at the solutions he proposes. Yet if for absolutely no other reason , Dazed and Confused serves a highly useful purpose. It's a potent antidote to the saccharine sweetness of George Lucas' 1974 American Graffiti. Unklater's self-chosen Identification with the "slacker" (quasi-)generation that has fallen untidily somewhere between the now nesting "baby-boomers" and equally nascent "generation-xers" is revealed in even stronger terms here than it was in this earlier film that introduced his unique brand of erst while social consciousness. Where Lucas' early '60s homeboy homage to his Southern California youth rang forth with Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock," Linklater opens Dazed and Confused with the defiant cha-chunging of Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion." And the difference between the two opening themes is telling. For Linklater has Lucas dead in his sights and he intends to pull the trigger. The only problem is he has trouble finding his target, much less figuring out which end to shoot. As such, where one of Lucas' preoccupations in American Graffiti's 1962 small-town California was snagging a six-pack of the demon brew, Unklater's neophyte, Mitch, dispenses with these formalities through a swift underaged purchase in 1976 Austin, Texas. Linklater seems to want to teil us that this implausible bit of tom-foolery is small potatoes. What really counts ís thesizeofyour stash. Smoking hemp - in the school yard; in the school toilet; in ones bedroom; at a party; with your meal, and on and on - is the sole arbiter of status in fused. This single generational fautt-line more securely divides these two films than did even the arch-hippie gyrations of American Grafliti's selfconscious 1979 sequel, Mom American Graffiti. Linklater is cleariy taking aim at Lucas' romanticized homage to American teen life at mid-century. Where Lucas' boys and giris cruise around town with an eye to meeting up later, Linklater throws us a curve by showing us how boring driving around in circles really is. The repartee of his high schooiers is sharper than the pseudo-hip slang in American Graffiti, but it's also equally more vacuous. And where the stray near-profane word nary slipped out of Graffíti's high school seniors' mout hs, Li nklater 's high school students haven 't quite mastered other aspects of the English language. Where Graffíti's kids worried about prom dances, "tomorrow," and where their "careers" were going to take them, Lin klater 's slackers are more concerned about grabbing transcendent Aerosmith tickets and Acapulco Gold. It's the yet-uninformed junior high students who are hanging around the gym slow-dancing on Prom Night. As such, the bacchanalia that serves as the pivotal sequence in Dazed and Confused is a generational cop-out . A mild cornucopia of high school couplings that would have been worthy of American Graffiti itself. It's a little bit of innocent necking - with a lot more flirting than heavy breathing - and nothing going on that is too heavy. For such intensity wouldn't be in the spirit of these Dazed and Confused times. Even the single fist fight that breaks out between the token intellectual nerd and token slicked-back motorcycle greaser at the yearend high school beer bash is broken up quickly so as not to spoil the universal vibes too awf ully much. This ain't no disco.. .and it isn't much of a party, either. Instead, it's a bit of a mystery why Linklater would even ent it Ie his comedy , Dazed and Confused. Admittedly some of the characters, like Slater, are a bit "dazed." But this would be normal from smoking the potent grass that was (and still is) readily available in Austin for 24 hours daily. "Confused," on the other hand, is merely Linklater's beard to mask the deological short-sightedness of his story-line. For there's no more confusión here than would be discernible on the last day of classes in any middle class American high school anywhere or anytime in the last half-century. At the least, there's certainly less confusión here than in James Dean's 1950s chicken run in Rebel Without aCause or Sean Penn's 1 980s pizza run in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Both of these memo rabie characterizations actual lybroke cinematic and social ground. So "Sweet Emotion," indeed. It takes a little more than posturing to communicate a willful rejection of civil authority - and social responsibility - or anything else that vaguely resembles more than a dim recognition that tomorrow is, but yet, another day in the so-called life of a teen-ager. Being confused on these terms is sweet, but it's also profoundly disappointing...even for caricatures in a teen-angst "mellow" drama. Zipping down the highway outta town, Linklater's ultimately all-too-orthodox road warriors listen to Foghat's "Slow Ride" as they jet out of town in a marijuana haze searching for that infinite holy grail of Aerosmith tickets: Frontrow and center on Saturday night. How little do they - and, oddlyenough, Linklater - realizethat their parents once took a similar trip to the strains of "Bom to Be Wild." RATING KEY i Acting 0 Cinematography Direction E Editing La Narrative Sound Special Effects tVien a symbol appears following a title, ñ mplies that the conesponding category s a strength of the movie.

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