“Alright, Alright, Alright… “
It certainly takes something distinctive to not only launch the numerous careers of future acting stars but also remain quotable and relatable some 25 years after its release and Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused firmly takes its spot as one of the finest teen films ever made with its natural, sometimes fantastical, exploits of a group of seniors to be and incoming freshman kids in a US school unlike any this UK citizen has ever seen.
Linklater’s cult classic fought many production companies and eventually ended up with Universal backing, even though teen films weren’t in vogue at the time, to create an energising movie that shows youth in the way the film-makers wanted. Interestingly, and in Linklater’s own words, he was aiming to make his own American Graffiti but in the 1970s and, very specifically May 28, 1976.
The film begins on that last day of term and as the bell rings out, rock ‘n roll, bongs and bell-bottoms take over the summer as we join a whole host of Texas teenagers who are just trying to make plans for the time ahead. Whilst initially focusing in on the hazing of the freshman boys, a ‘tradition’ that basically means senior boys beating the young lads with a small cricket bat on the backside – which today would easily fit the ‘toxic masculinity’ bracket – and the girls don’t escape either because the senior ladies also round up who they want, shout commands, cover them in ketchup and flour and then force them to propose to the senior lads… whilst in history this might seem extreme – and over the top – it oddly fits 1976 and it’s only occasionally uncomfortable to add a modern context.
Dazed and Confused is a lot of fun though, it’s a moment in time and also introduces us to so many future stars including the likes of Jason London, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Cole Hauser, Parker Posey, Adam Goldberg, Joey Lauren Adams, Matthew McConaughey, Nicky Katt, and Rory Cochrane (and even a non-speaking Renee Zellweger) – so many who’ll go on to either hit the big time in the 90s and even beyond. These mentioned early moments make way to a wider story focusing on Jason London’s Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd, a quarter-back who’s asked to sign a pledge to say he won’t do drugs or drink over the summer to aid his college American football team next time out but, of course, he doesn’t want to sign… he just wants to live his own life in the moment.
Linklater’s film breaks the mould of the usual stereotypes though, while there are jocks, fights and idiots among the stoners, philosophers and geeks, we see every type of person here – each trying to find their way in their young lives. The boredom and angst of the everyday are at the centre of everyone’s desire for something superior, but it’s filmed, scripted and presented in an oddly brilliant progressive way that celebrates true freedom at a time that seems long ago, especially with every passing year since its original release.
There’s always something smart about films that just spend a specific amount of time with people, especially when so much happens and changes. Even though, for the characters, it’s just one day as they try to find themselves, striving to drive through the boredom and entertain their minds for something different, exciting and all that possibility thrives through the heart of the film. Even for the less likeable characters, everyone has an intention to make a mark. Even small, they just want to make some kind of personal transformation. Dazed and Confused is an easy one to embrace, and we’re all the better for it.
Also, as this is a new Criterion Collection release, there’s a hugely impressive range of special features, all director approved, so even after re-visiting the film, or seeing it for the first time, there’s plenty of surprises, insights and extras to delve into for hours – Full list below!
Dazed and Confused, from the Criterion Collection, is available to order now: https://amzn.to/2MEIfrw
- High-definition digital transfer of the director’s cut, supervised by director Richard Linklater and cinematographer Lee Daniel, with 5.1 DTS-HA Master Audio soundtrack
- Audio commentary featuring Linklater
- Making “Dazed”, a fifty-minute documentary by Kahane Corn
- Rare on-set interviews and behind-the-scenes footage
- Footage from the ten-year anniversary celebration
- Audition footage and deleted scenes
- Original theatrical trailer
- PLUS: a booklet featuring essays by Kent Jones, Jim DeRogatis, and Chuck Klosterman; reprinted recollections of the filming from cast and crew, and character profiles from the Dazed and Confused companion book; as well as the original film poster by Frank Kozik