Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused is a pinpoint slice-of-life cross sectioned look at a group of students in a small 1976 Texas town on the last day of school. Eschewing a traditional narrative, the film jumps back and forth among a dozen or more personalities throughout the day as we slowly get to see what makes several of the more interesting ones tick. Some beer is drunk, some pot is smoked, and a few people get a glimpse into where their next year in school may take them. Most of all, the film simply wants to capture a time and place not through any kind of rose-colored glasses scenario but simply as it was: a time when life could be sweet or sour depending on what time of day it was and who was out and about making things rough or easy.
Dazed and Confused (Blu-ray)
Directed by Richard Linklater
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 102 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Review Date: October 23, 2011
On the last day of school, Pink (Jason London) who’s going to be the first string football quarterback for his senior year is presented with a form he must sign where he pledges to stay away from drugs and alcohol and not break curfew in order to play on the team. It continues to bother him throughout the day because he and his friends plan on spending a fun summer partying beginning with that night at a giant keg party being thrown at his friend Pickford’s (Shawn Andrews) house. Initiation for incoming freshmen has already begun led by the bullying O'Bannion (Ben Affleck) and foremost on his list is Mitch (Wiley Wiggins), brother of one of the high school’s coolest girls Jodi (Michelle Burke). Mitch takes his paddling well which impresses Pink and his buddies Don (Sasha Jenson) and Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) enough to allow Mitch to join their group at the local teen hangout that night. Wooderson even finds a new place to party, the Moon Tower, when Pickford’s father learns that their home is to be the party house and puts a stop to it.
Unlike the far more popular in its day American Graffiti, Dazed and Confused isn’t the least bit sentimental about the period it's depicting (despite the almost nonstop array of period rock that’s on the soundtrack). The kids living it think their decade sucks, and like all younger generations, they rebel against restrictions that try to be imposed upon them by their elders. The lack of a firm narrative does end in our seeing only bits and pieces of a lot of these kids’ experiences on this important day in their lives, and it’s a bit frustrating not to get a more detailed look at upcoming freshman Sabrina (Christin Hinojosa) who like Mitch has come under the wing of some upperclassmen and seems to be heading toward early popularity once she enters high school. Three of the school’s more intellectual students also get short shrift: newspaper editor Tony (Anthony Rapp), his philosophical friend Mike (Adam Goldberg) and their gal pal Cynthia (Marissa Ribisi) who tweaks the interest of Wooderson. Pink’s everyman quality (he’s a jock who’s friends with the geeks and the stoners) makes him the film’s de facto lead, and the focus does tend to go to him near the end of the film as writer-director Richard Linklater searches for a way to end his tale, but he kind of disappears in the middle of the movie as other stories take center stage. He’s actually got an embarrassment of character riches here on which to draw, and the helter-skelter approach to showing us only a little bit for each of them can be frustrating and ultimately a bit unsatisfying at the end even as enjoyable as the ride has been to that point.
The film was a launching pad for a number of successful careers in film and television so naturally we tend to scrutinize the excellent work of Matthew McConaughey, Anthony Rapp, Milla Jovovich, Adam Goldberg and Ben Affleck in their especially showy roles. Parker Posey has a couple of memorable scenes as the female counterpart to Affleck’s bullying senior, and she’s equally funny even if she isn’t given as many moments to shine as he is. Rory Cochrane stumbles around the movie in a haze of marijuana-induced delirium as stoner Slater (a little of whom goes a long way since it’s such a one-note character). Wiley Wiggins is an okay Mitch, obviously an inexperienced actor and not showing a great amount of personality on screen. Jason London, on the other hand, had the makings of a star career in his heartfelt performance, the same kind of stardom that happened for Affleck and McConaughey but didn’t for him.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully reproduced here with 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very good throughout without being exemplary, and color saturation levels are well above average. Flesh tones are true to life. Black levels are good though details sometimes get crushed in the shadows. The film has been divided into 19 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is better than the low budget ($6 million) for the film might lead one to think it would be. The period music from Aerosmith to Lynyrd Skynyrd sounds great in the fronts and rears, and there are occasional ambient sounds which pan through the soundstage to give the mix some resonance and depth. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed firmly in the center channel.
The audio commentary is a engaging one by writer-director Richard Linklater. Despite his generally upbeat attitude of pride in his work and in the success many enjoyed as a result of this first taste of filmmaking, there is also underneath a twinge of bitterness that comes out about the film’s bungled handling and the lack of foresight of the studio in realizing what it had on its hands.
All of the video features are presented in 1080i.
There are seventeen deleted scenes which can be played separately or together in a 25 ½-minute bunch.
“Making Dazed” is a 45 ½-minute look back at the film’s harried production: everything from his pitch to the studio through casting, the problems in getting financing to do what he wanted to do, the 36-day shoot, post-production problems, and its afterlife. The cast also details the successes many enjoyed in other media after the film's premire.
There are twelve audition scenes which may be watched individually or in one 23 ¼-minute grouping.
“Beer Bust at Moon Tower” is a hodgepodge collection of interviews and backstage footage grouped into three sections where each piece can be viewed separately or in one organized grouping. "Character Interviews" finds thirteen of the leading actors improvising answers to questions about their characters (40 ½ minutes total). Individual interviews with the director and eleven members of the cast are presented in a collection totaling 47 ¾-minutes. Fourteen behind-the-scenes segments of actors and director and producer at work and play are presented (30 ½ minutes total).
The theatrical trailer runs for 2 minutes.
The enclosed 73-page booklet includes the chapter listing (with music selections found in each chapter), the cast and crew lists, color stills from the movie, critic Kent Jones’ appreciation of the film, music critics Jim DeRogatis and Chuck Klosterman’s examinations of the influential music in the film, John Spong’s interviews with cast and crew published in 2003, and a charming yearbook styled look at several of the main characters called “Profiles in Confusion.”
The package set also contains a Dazed and Confused poster.
The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which 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 commentary that goes 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.
4/5 (not an average)
Dazed and Confused earns its place at the nostalgia table for its welcome lack of sentimentality about a previous generation and for introducing a talented group of new actors to cinema audiences. The Blu-ray release has excellent video and audio transfers and the same bountiful bonus features from the 2006 DVD release that will delight fans of the movie for hours. Recommended!