Posts Tagged ‘film’

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Slacker – The Austin Scene

04/27/2012

Boy is this a weird one.  The mumbling philosophical dilemmas of every generation’s young people are manifest in this 97-minute effort by writer/director Richard Linklater.  There is a story, but it’s near invisible.  There is a plot, but it seems designed specifically to keep us from acknowledging it.  I wonder if it inspired Seinfeld in its love of nothingness.  Both are driven by zany conversation.  But there is deliberation here.  Nothing is random, and judging from how easily the camera follows the blocking, I’d say that everything has been heavily rehearsed.  Still, the impression is of a voyeur.  The point of view may not be omniscient, but it is roaming.  That really is the heart of this film.

I imagine that when writing this script, Linklater probably walked around Austin simply hanging out with folks and hearing what they had to say.  I also wonder if he wrote the script based on locations that he saw every day, or if he found the locations after writing the script.  At any rate, the changing buildings and locations serve as new characters, each with their own stories.  For instance, one character walks into a diner full of crazy people, and then walks out.

I do not know who this character is.  All I know is that his appearance is precipitated by a mystic woman’s warning: “the next person who passes us will die in a fortnight.”  And sure enough, as soon as he’s off-screen we here a car screech to a halt with the driver yelling, “get out of the road!”

It seems as though the film is a compilation of points, punctuating what it means to be a part of a sub-culture.  If you were to listen to it, you may not even realize how many speaking parts are in the film.  All the characters are basically having the same conversations.  I sense that the conspiracy guy from the 15 minute mark might get along well with the two stoners debating the capitalist propaganda in Scooby Doo.

The goal of this movie appears to be a celebration of the meandering lifestyle.  Characters have impulses, passions, and interests that exist outside of the film narrative.  Our voyeurism takes us into and out of their lives.  Yet the pacing is still very deliberate and the emotional rhythm has just as many ups and downs as any traditional narrative.  If you were to structure it all out, you would see a heightening of tension as the film progresses.  Characters make fun of each other, the conflict with each other.  There is a broad paranoia at work concerning the government and the media.  One character mentions missing persons, whom we never find, but we do see signs posted up on walls reminding us of their absence.  Another character attempts to rob an old man’s house, only to find himself confronted by the world’s most articulate anarchist.

What does this do for the audience experience?  Well, as one character says, “you’re either with us or against us.”  If you are not a youthful vagabond in early 90’s Austin, you may not find yourself at home with this film.  There is however, something timeless about that age-old frustration with the previous generation’s failures.  Every young person is looking for his or her way to contribute something great.  But when all the old people are telling you to go away and “do something with your life” you are faced with a choice: to submit, or to rebel?  Not all the characters in the film are young however.  The anarchist is much older, but still seems to find a place with the youngsters.  He embraces their rebellious attitude, and welcomes the idea of being stolen from.

The film takes us through a full 24 hour period (and then some) by starting with a young man’s arrival at the bus station in Austin, and then ultimately culminating with a group of film students that drive off into the country to film random bits of fun.  Its as if the final moment is a “Gotcha!” style punch line.  We came into it expecting something profound, but ultimately it’s a film made by the characters it portrays – slackers.

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