Dazed and Confused ★★★★★

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Knock a big one off of my Classic Films I Need to See List

There’s nothing I don’t like about this film. I just finished watching it, and I could watch it again right now. I don’t know what makes me rate a film five stars, but those are pretty good indicators that a film deserves it.

Some could knock Dazed and Confused for having nothing to say, or for just meandering. But you could write tons of essays on issues like gender, goal setting, the American dream, peer-pressure, nostalgia. And actually, the film is quite ambitious. It follows so many characters in 90 minutes, jumps between them all seamlessly and makes you care about all of them too. All the different characters give us a real feel for the the Texan town, as does the great camerawork, which is breezy, never/rarely close-ups, allowing us to take in the setting and absorb the atmosphere. The realism is incredible; the only time Linklater really loses touch with verisimilitude is when the old guy chases them with the shotgun (not that that couldn’t happen, but it is a bit out of touch with the day-to-day feel of the film). Other than that, Linklater really gets at the true high school experience. It makes me nostalgic for my high school years, even though I went to high school in the mid 2000s.

Perhaps the best part though is how anti-commercial the movie is. It’s a movie made up of many fantastic small moments that add up to a truly un-spoilable, impossible to summarize treat. It must be seen to be appreciated, but can hardly be sold. It works because of Linklater’s script. There are quotes from this script that precede the movie itself. I’ve heard people who don’t even know this movie exists say those quotes. The script is obviously hilarious, but melancholy as well. Characters complain, fight, are confused, and want to move on from the difficulty of high school--while at the same time the film looks back on it all with starry-eyed nostalgia.

All of this adds up to a film that, unlike the way Wooderson likes his girls, gets better with age. The unusual structure and the nostalgia theme gets more interesting every year. I can’t wait to watch it again.

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