This post is not even nearly as long as I would like it to be, since this is one of my favorite Hollywood films. However, I am soon going to start making analysis videos and I would love to make one of this particular film, specifically in comparison with its spiritual sequel that released this year, ‘Everybody Wants Some’. Hence, I’m saving some of my notes for that and will be looking at only a small aspect of the film. Thank you.
I was introduced to Richard Linklater’s films even before I knew who or what a director is. Like most people, I saw ‘School of Rock’ when I was in the fourth or maybe fifth grade. It had a huge impact on me. It was the first time I heard rock music which has pretty much haunted me since then so I owe a lot to Mr. Linklater. But I’m going to talk about another film directed by him which marked a different period in my life, Dazed and Confused.
Dazed and Confused, essentially, is a film where nothing happens. If we simply go through the events of the film, they kind of go like this:
- Last Day of school.
- Asshole coach tries to make football team sign a paper that really has no effect on anyone.
- Pot Smoking.
- More Pot Smoking.
- More Ragging.
- Mathew McConaughey happens to cinema.
- Beer / Pot / Ragging.
- Party Location change.
- More Party / Beer / Pot.
- Small Fight at party.
- Some more Party.
- Party ends.
- More pot smoking.
- Quarterback doesn’t sign paper that doesn’t matter.
- Aerosmith Tickets.
The above list maybe long but from the perspective of conventional film structure, nothing really happened. This is a film that effectively shows the three act structure a giant, joint shaped middle finger.
Dazed and Confused, to me, is easily one of the best coming of age films I’ve ever scene, and in my personal opinion, easily better than Boyhood. This film doesn’t just show a bunch of characters realizing their purpose in life like most coming of age ones, on the contrary, it shows us a bunch of characters accepting the fact that maybe life doesn’t have much purpose and we should all just chill, smoke some blunts and enjoy a little bit of Aerosmith.
But as most of us, excluding the characters of the film, know that life doesn’t work that way. And that’s the best part about these characters, they don’t know what is about to come at them. In fact they are extremely vocal about how much they hate the time they’re living in because they are naive as fuck. Of course, we, as slightly older audiences know that this is probably the best time in these kids’ life. In fact, McConaughey’s character is an old loser (Loser, for want of a better word) still hanging out with high school juniors way younger than him because obviously he misses that life. But these kids just don’t seem to understand this simple truth of life. Or do they?
One of the final lines of the film is what brings that question up in my mind. It is also the fact that makes me realize that the film doesn’t exactly have as happy an ending as it’s made out to be. For context, right before the dialogue I’m about to show, the protagonist (sort of protagonist) of the film declares that if he ever looked back and thought of these as the best years of his life, he’d kill himself. To this, his friend replies:
“Well, all I’m saying is that I want to look back and say that I did the best that I could while I was stuck in this place. Had as much fun as I could while I was stuck in this place. Played as hard as I could while I was stuck in this place… Dogged as many chicks as I could while I was stuck in this place.”
The shot that paired this dialogue is the image attached with this post, it is also the reason why I chose not to put up the usual photo of the four characters standing in front of the colourful background while McConaughey creepily declares his love for high school girls. The shot with this dialogue is very conventional. Just a simple slow pan while the lead, Randal “pink” Floyd is standing on a football field and looking into the distance while his friends lie on the grass and deliver the aforementioned dialogue.
That is one of my favorite shots in cinema. The reason is that we now realize that ‘Pink’ actually knows and very well understands that this is the best part of his life. In spite of that, he chooses to risk it all by not signing that meaningless piece of paper because “that’s just not rock N roll, man.” And that’s the point. These characters aren’t hippies who are giving up their lives out of naivete. They know the consequences of, and now I’m coming back to a ‘School of Rock’ reference, sticking it to THE MAN. They’re doing it anyway.