Friday, November 2, 2007

No. 18 - Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused was released in 1993, but it is set in 1976. It captures the time period impeccably not only in terms of decor, clothing, cars and music, but also in its cinematic style. Dazed and Confused feels like a 70's film - it is an Altman-esque ensemble piece, and it has the languid, observational feel of a lot of 70's films. Best of all, unlike all the bad teen films of the 80's, Dazed and Confused does not present any obvious lessons for the drug-taking and beer-drinking characters to learn. No one is punished, there are no big epiphanies. It simply focuses on high school kids who are partying on the first night of summer. Director Richard Linklater deploys a kick-back style that refuses to overemphasize moments that lesser directors would milk for more humor or pathos. Events feel caught rather than staged.

I also admire Linklater's refusal to play the story for camp value. The characters do not have the self-awareness of posterity. They take themselves seriously, and we look beyond the 70's perms and flared jeans simply to see a universal experience -- this is what kids go through everywhere, in every decade. Dazed and Confused reminds me of Our Town, a play that was set in a specific place and time but ultimately transcended its origins. Dazed and Confused is timeless.

No comments: