Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Milla Jovovich
Country: United States
Running time: 102 minutes
BBFC Certificate: 15
Dazed and Confused is an American coming of age comedy set in one day and night, 28th May 1976, the last day of high school in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. In the included commentary the director reports the initial idea for the film was one long shot of a group of bored adolescent high school boys in a car and listening to an 8 track cartridge of ZZ Top’s Fandango! The end product is significantly fleshed out from this initial premise, involving an ensemble cast rich in actors who went on to have successful film making careers.
The opening to the film evokes the era in which it is set, Southern USA in the mid 1970s, bored teenagers with long hair (the haircuts are particularly impressive, strikingly bad, and no doubt mostly wigs), colourful clothes, rock n roll music, ‘getting it on’, ‘chasing muff’, dope smoking, and driving cars. If there is a central character, it would be Randall ‘Pink’ Floyd (Jason London), an everyman of sorts, with allegiances to the different tribes in the school, be that the jocks, the intellectuals where he is a journalist on the school newspaper, and the stoners. His dilemma is whether to remain with the school football team for the next year and in so doing sign a pledge to not use any form of drug over the summer. It’s a tidy metaphor for the age-old concern of young people anxious about being tied down and railroaded into a life of conformity.
These teen dilemmas are further elaborated, a contingency of the female cast gather in a toilet area and debate the true meaning of USA 1970s castaway sitcom Gilligan’s Island, they compare it to a male pornographic fantasy. There is another brief scene where a radical history teacher shouts to the class as they exit the classroom, she deconstructs the American Independence Day for what it really is and what was at the core of the American War of Independence; ’a bunch of slave-owning aristocratic white males didn’t want to pay their taxes’.
In these early scenes of the film a sense of anarchy ensues as the cast are completing their last afternoon in school; they play pranks on each other, and the senior students begin what Americans term ‘hazing’, initiation type rituals, where the younger students are subject to humiliation by the older students. For the men, this means being chased, caught and then beaten with a paddle bat. Ben Affleck’s character, O’Bannion, is a particularly vicious perpetrator of this ritual. Parker Posey plays the part of Daria, alpha female and lead perpetrator of the rituals imposed on the female characters; the women are made to lie on the floor having rubbish tipped on them, and then made to propose to their male counterparts. It’s all done in a light-hearted spirit, really Linklater is lucky to get away with it, but it’s not as offensive as it might sound.
As the school day is finally complete, the students exit the building with Alice Copper’s 1970s hit ‘Schools out for summer’ blaring on the soundtrack. The cast can now pursue deeper concerns; where is the party? where are the drugs? and who is going to obtain tickets for the upcoming Aerosmith gig? At this stage of the film, it becomes a clear homage to the film American Graffiti (1973) directed by George Lucas. Likewise a coming of age film, where the characters, a group of teenagers, cruise around in cars listening to rock n roll music. In Dazed and Confused the various cliques share a car, driving from house party, to school dance, to pool emporium, to drive through burger bar. It’s a hot night, and when the hoped-for house party gets cancelled, the senior boys obtain a trunk full of beer. There’s a meet up at the local pool hall, named The Emporium, arrangements are made for a ‘keg party’, a gathering at a field on the edge of town where the landmark Moon Light Tower is located. There are a series of scenes involving japes and random dialogue. We are introduced to the now iconic and often quoted character Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey). A friend of Pink’s, he is an older character who left school a number of years ago, but still hangs out with high school kids. We encounter him driving a car on the way to The Emporium with Pink and Mitch (Wile Wiggins) in tow. His opening line is ‘Say man, you gotta joint?’. To this day this might be the first things fans say to the actor Matthew McConaughey when they meet him.
The night part of the film is the party at The Moon Light Tower, where many of the characters address their teenage angst, either by drinking beer, smoking dope, dropping acid, or making out. One character, a geeky intellectual type, Mike (Adam Goldberg) gets bullied by another person at the party and immediately wants his revenge. Mustering up the courage for a retaliation he makes the astute observation, he can feel a ‘level of humiliation that’s setting in that will be with me forever, I’m not going to let this be another situation that contributes to me being an ineffectual nothing for the rest of my life’. On a lighter level the stoner character, Ron (Rory Cochrane) looks out from The Moon Light Tower on to the town where they all live stating, ‘imagine how many people out there are fucking?’.
As the party comes to an end the characters Pink, Wooderson, and Sasha (Dawn Dawson) return to the school sports ground, and their are some scenes where they discuss their experiences of school, the teachers (who are clear figures of authority) and how best to confront this authority and find their true identity.
Dazed and Confused is a bright and colourful rambling film, with a wonderful energetic ensemble cast. It’s fluid in its construct, bursting with ideas, short scenes, clever and organic character developments. You can see why over the years it has developed a fond and devoted audience who love to quote lines. The general message of the film, you win some you lose some, only the strong survive, there can be a need to defy authority.
Included on this edition is an interesting and heartfelt commentary from the director Richard Linklater, a documentary where the actors gathered for a 10th anniversary party, and a making-of documentary. All worth watching, and enhancing the enjoyment of this fantastic film.
The Extras are.
DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
- 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
Dazed and Confused Blu-Ray Special Edition is released by The Criterion Collection and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment on 10 June 2019