Dir: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Matthew McConaughey
Runtime: 103 minutes. (1993)
Released in the early 90s and rated 18, it’s easy to see why most of us missed Dazed and Confused first time around. But with TV reruns and cult status, it’s a little harder to understand why not everyone has made good this situation, for Dazed and Confused is not only a brilliant film, it’s one that can be watched over and over without wearing thin, so perfectly does it capture a mood and a time.
If there is a slacker genre then Richard Linklater invented it. And if one film defines that genre it is not Slacker (1991) itself, a sprawling, confusing, and ultimately not very interesting wander through Austin, Texas, but Dazed and Confused: same director, same location, but just enough plot to keep us interested and just enough sprawl to recreate the allure of the first day of an endless summer.
It is May 28th 1976, America’s two hundredth birthday and the last day of term at Lee High School. We follow both the incoming freshmen and the class of 1977, about to become seniors and keen to subject the new kids to the same initiation rituals they endured three years earlier. The boys are chased around the suburbs and beaten with wooden paddles while the girls escape with a dose of ritual humiliation; covered in ketchup and flour they are made to propose to the senior boys. But when the brutality’s over, they meet up again to cruise through town, to shoot some pool, to commit random acts of vandalism, to exact revenge, and to party.
All the greasers, stoners, jocks, and nerds of the typical teen flick are linked by Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd, the star quarterback whose coach thinks he’s in need of an ‘attitude adjustment’ and who wonders whether to sign a pledge not to do drugs next season. He takes Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins, who also stars in Linklater’s Waking Life) under his wing after a particularly bad beating and we follow them from pool hall to keg party, with detours through the lives of other characters; special mention going to Ben Affleck as the vicious O’Bannion and Matthew McConaughey as the sleazy but nonetheless charming Wooderson.
The meandering of these characters is strangely beautiful, which could equally be said of the whole film. The seventies are so perfectly evoked that it’s hard to believe this was filmed in 1993: the cars, the hairstyles, the drainpipe jeans being zipped up with the aid of pliers, all are stunning, and the soundtrack, although bizarrely omitting Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, is superb. In the end, you are seduced into believing that top priority of the summer really is getting Aerosmith tickets and that all adults are killjoys. As Pink says ‘I think they’re just afraid some of us might be having too good a time.’
Dazed and Confused is showing at YSC on Sunday 15th June (week 9).