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    Slacker Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Criterion

    Sep 15 2013 01:30 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    Richard Linklater’s Slacker was at the vanguard of the 1990s independent cinema movement, and its influence spread not only to other filmmakers but to Linklater’s subsequent films, too, often finding them taking place in a limited time period and focused on people with communication issues. Today the film seems innovative in its approach but rather lacking in content and impact. It’s almost disposable cinema in that there’s lots of talk and lots of people doing the talking, but there still isn’t much connection between those talking and those listening. It’s the cinematic equivalent of having something go in one ear and out the other with nothing left in the middle of any lasting value.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Criterion
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 40 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray
    • Case Type: book-like housing within a clipcase
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 09/17/2013
    • MSRP: $39.95

    The Production Rating: 2.5/5

    During a twenty-four hour period on the streets of Austin, Texas, a succession of people, sometimes alone and sometimes in pairs or groups, walk along or sit and talk. Some talk existentially about the meaning of life, the ease with which life can be altered in a single second, and the fragility of the world and its inhabitants. Others are merely looking for a handout: money, cigarettes, a ride somewhere or nowhere in particular, or trying to get away with something (a shoplifter gets caught outside a store, a TV thief is caught in the act but not turned in and is actually befriended, murder in one particular case). They pass one another in the street, and the camera sometimes lingers for an extra scene on some of them; other times it jumps from person to person almost within the blink of an eye. In none of the brief sequences do people seem to make meaningful connections; sometimes people listen, and they often do it reverentially without the eye-rolling or impatient finger drumming or by making off-handed remarks that today’s younger generation would likely find more practical. Sex is of the moment and easily dismissed the following morning. But the gist of it all is that this is a generation of aimlessness: no objectives, no timetables, no plans. It’s life lived in and of the moment.

    Writer-producer-director Richard Linklater appears in the very first scene in a funny motormouth monologue with a cabbie who refuses to engage with him. We don’t see him again, and yet the stamp of his vernacular is all over the film. So many characters, some young and some old, pontificate with the same run-on speech and cadence that we heard in that initial scene that we know he’s always somewhere near. The film deliberately resists plotting and character development, but the fact remains that there are some interesting characters here (the son who runs over his mother and then blithely returns home and goes about his business, a Kennedy assassination theorist, a belligerent man who almost defies people to like him, his opposite: a kindly older man who wants to share his wisdom with anyone younger who will listen, some children who bilk a Coke machine for free sodas and then hawk them to others and run off with their ill-gotten gains: one would love to have run away with them to see how they spent their day), and the tragedy is that the director becomes a slave to his less interesting concept and ignores potential stories right before his eyes. The camerawork is fluid passing gracefully from one camera subject to the next (even if the technical know-how is a little sloppy with boom mics dipping into the frame and reflections of the crew seen occasionally), and the film is an easy watch. But when it’s over, one feels undernourished and slightly unsatisfied (the climactic romp which foregoes the previously smooth camerawork for jerky, helter-skelter activity seems the antithesis of what the director was going for. If he was going to abandon his concept, why not leave it to explore some of those fascinating characters he gave us a glimpse of?).

    Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

    Shot in 16mm, the film is framed at 1.33:1 and is presented in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very good, and color is likewise consistent and reliably accurate with flesh tones and in the colors in and around Austin. (The home movie look at the end of the film, of course, is deliberately grainier and much less sharp and clear.) When it turns evening in Austin, black levels aren’t as well represented in the transfer. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo surround track is surround in name only. The engineers have cleaned up the soundtrack immeasurably well leaving a crisp, artifact-free listening experience. Most of the dialogue is easy to hear and understand except with the few actors (many of them amateurs) who mumble, but their words are never compromised by ambient music or street sounds.

    Special Features: 5/5

    Audio Commentaries: there are three commentaries available for listening, possibly too much of a good thing. Writer-director Richard Linklater has one track to himself and shares another with his director of photography Lee Daniel and producer Clark Walker. The third track features twelve members of the cast who recorded their comments in sessions in 2001 and 2004.

    No Longer Not Yet (HD): step-through pages from the original film script

    Casting (HD): two step-through pages of casting ideas for the movie. Then there is a montage of cast interviews (14:43).

    Taco and a Half After Ten (12:00, HD): behind-the-scenes home movies of setting up, rehearsing, and shooting various scenes in the film.

    Ain’t No Film in That Shit (28:24, HD): thirteen deleted/extended scenes in montage

    Theatrical Trailer (2:50, HD)

    End of Interview (20:03, HD): home movies shot at the tenth anniversary screening/celebration of the movie in Austin in 2001. Director Richard Linklater, cast and crew members all share memories of making the movie.

    Viva Les Amis Trailer (10:33, HD): a lengthy trailer for a documentary directed by Nancy Higgins focusing on the diner where scenes in the movie were shot and which is now gone.

    Woodshock (7:18, HD): a 1985 short shot by Linklater and Daniel at a local rock concert but which focuses on the people attending rather than the music.

    It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1:26:02, HD): Richard Linklater’s first feature film shot in Super 8 focusing on a young college student rather alienated from meaningful relationships and aimlessly wandering in search of them.

    Sixty-Eight Page Booklet: contains the chapter listing, a cast and crew list, analytical essays on the film by critics Ron Rosenbaum and Chris Walters, admiring tributes by filmmaker John Pierson and Sony Pictures executive Michael Barker, an introduction to It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books by director Monte Hellman, and production notes by writer-director Richard Linklater.

    Timeline: can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc, the title of the chapter you’re now in, and index markers for the commentaries that go along with the film, all of which can be switched on the fly. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    Greatly admired by cinema buffs and certainly a one-of-a-kind film that deserves viewing, Richard Linklater’s Slacker comes to Blu-ray in a feature-packed edition that fans will undoubtedly put on their must-have lists.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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