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DAZED AND CONFUSED
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jason London, Rory Cochrane, Wiley Wiggins, Christin Hinojosa, Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich,
Director:  Richard Linklater
Audio:  DTS HD 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Criterion
Features:  See Review
Length:  102 Minutes
Release Date: 
October 25, 2011

ďIf I ever start referring to these as the best years of my lifeÖremind me to kill myself.Ē

Film ***1/2

Dazed and Confused is one of those movies you either get or you donít.  Thereís no plot, no storyline to speak of, just a cast of high school characters in 1976 doing what they do on the last day of school.  For some, itís pointless, meandering, and wallowing in a moral void.  For me, I love the movie because itís funny, itís real, and itís NOW.

Writer/director Richard Linklater actually crafted one of the best movies about high school ever.  Itís filled with his love for the 70s, and itís the 70s as they really wereÖno looking back through kitsch colored glasses.  Sure, the kids drink, smoke pot, and party without consequence, but thereís no judgment at play here.  The point of the movie isnít the future.  Itís today.  Hell, thatís the way most teens think.

It takes place from the end of the school day until sunrise the next day.  I canít outline the plot in a simple summary, because as I mentionedÖthere is none.  Itís just an array of kids doing what they do.  No comments really on cliques, peer pressures or any of that.  Itís very in the moment from start to finish, and the delight of the movie is in hanging out with the characters for 100 minutes.  It doesnít work for some.  But there are plenty others like me whose love for the picture has kept it a cult favorite for more than a decade.  Every time I watch it, I wish it was twice as long.

In lieu of a story description, how about a rundown of a few of the main characters?  Thereís Pink (London), the protagonist if you can pinpoint one, whose current dilemma is whether or not to sign a pledge not to use drugs or alcohol at the bequest of his coach.  Thereís Slater (Cochrane), the constant stoner with a logo on his T-shirt that will keep you laughing out loud.  There are the freshmen dealing with their new torments at the hands of seniors:  Mitch (Wiggins), who tries to keep his bottom out of the hands of paddle-wielding upperclassmen, and Sabrina (Hinojosa), a pretty young thing who may be sharp beyond her years.

Two of the most memorable characters:  OíBanion (Affleck, in whatís still my all time favorite role for him), a senior who flunked out and is ready to take it out on anything and anybody, and Woodman (McConaughey), a guy who graduated who-knows-how-long-ago, and still hangs out with the kids because he canít let go of his youth.

There are plenty more characters, of course, as this is an ensemble piece of the highest order.  No one kid stands out any more than any other, but there are definitely people at play here who will remind you of people you knew in school.  I was a kid in the 70s, but even though I didnít reach high school or junior high in that decade, I still get the vibe, and in many ways, Linklaterís vision of the decade is the truest one ever captured on celluloid.  Itís kind of like the American Graffiti of the 90sÖlike Lucasí film, itís a loving look back at two decades earlier.

I canít say whether youíre one of the ones who will fall under the spell of Dazed and Confused, but I can recommend without reservation to give it a try.  Someone introduced it to me, after all, and Iím always glad to spread the love. 

Video ****

There IS actually another studio, who shall remain nameless, who has issued a Blu-ray version of this movie.   Forget it existsÖCriterion, as usual, has given fans the ultimate treat.  This director-approved transfer looks gorgeous, with all the bright, crazy colors of the 70s coming to vibrant life in full anamorphic glory.  I only noticed a touch of grain and haze here and there, but come onÖit was the 70s, dude.

Audio ****

I canít believe I havenít mentioned this until now, but this movie boasts one of the most killer soundtracks ever.  Wall to wall classic FM rockÖall the best songs and best artists.  And man, do they sound GREAT in DTS 5.1 sound.  The music is loud, punchy, and gives the picture its dynamic range.  Enjoy the Slow Ride.

Features ****

This Blu-ray boasts a bevy of fantastic features.  It begins with a terrific commentary track from Richard Linklater, whoís funny, self-effacing, and generous with his memories, ideas and experiences.  Thereís also a trailer and 17, count Ďem, SEVENTEEN deleted scenes.

There is also a superb documentary Making Dazed.  Ten years in the making, it combines old and new footage of cast and crew discussing the film and what it meant to them.  You can also peruse a slew of cast audition tapes, and a ďbeer bustĒ collection of on-set interviews and behind the scenes footage.

Rounding out is another terrific Criterion booklet, filled with pics, essays and more.  And the cover art is pretty sweet, too.

Summary:

Dazed and Confused is a joyful slice of youthful life that almost plays out like one of your own memories.  Itís fresh and funny, and a trip I donít mind taking again and again.  Criterion has done film fans a great serviceÖthey knocked one out of the park with this Blu-ray release.

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