Dazed and Confused

A part of this view­ing list: Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #336: Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Con­fused.


Nos­tal­gia isn’t what it used to be.
-Peter De Vries

The screen­caps are crum­my in this review because the library sent me the Full Screen ver­sion instead of the Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion ver­sion. I had to grab screen­caps from else­where. Dazed and Con­fused is a movie a bit like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in its attempt to recap­ture the cul­tur­al aro­ma of the 1970s. F& has an advan­tage, it is based on pri­ma­ry source mate­r­i­al, so its nos­tal­gia is less removed from the decade and despite its ram­bunc­tious­ness, it comes across as a bit more authen­tic than Dazed and Con­fused, per­haps because of the sense of doom that is present through­out the film. D&C on the oth­er hand, is nos­tal­gic for a time that, to me, seems impos­si­ble to have ever exist­ed.

In any case, the verac­i­ty of the film shouldn’t be a ques­tion, it is meant to be nos­tal­gic and enter­tain­ing, not some exam­ple of truth. What is inter­est­ing to me is that the nos­tal­gia present in the film is aimed at my demo­graph­ic, specif­i­cal­ly, folks that prob­a­bly weren’t even born in 1976. In this case it cre­ates an inter­est­ing par­a­digm, where folks feel nos­tal­gic for a time before they were even born. As irra­tional as this seems, it can find its pur­chase in the fact that the film presents a time less fraught with insti­tu­tion­al­ized wor­ry, pre-War on Drugs, pre-HIV, pre-lit­i­ga­tion soci­ety, all has­sles that were just hit­ting their stride in the late 80s/early 90s. The 1976 we see in the film haven’t com­plete­ly for­got­ten the 60s or even the 50s, in some respects, hot rods have giv­en way to mus­cle cars, but every­one still goes to the dri­ve-in and pool hall to hang out. The worst thing any­one has to wor­ry about is sign­ing a prim­i­tive anti-drug/al­co­hol/­sex/rock and roll pledge in order to play foot­ball.


The film is a com­e­dy though, such semi-deep thoughts aren’t its focus. Despite the weird nos­tal­gia, the high school arche­types are so well rep­re­sent­ed that it is almost instinc­tu­al to imag­ine your­self as a cer­tain char­ac­ter or in a cer­tain clique. The retro fad was just pick­ing up when I was in high school, so I had a col­lec­tion of 70s shirts, orange cor­duroy bell­bot­toms and oth­er para­pher­na­lia that could have been spawned by this movie or only just fed by it. As an ado­les­cent rite of pas­sage film it gains an almost time­less appro­pri­ate­ness. You take your allot­ment of shit from the high­er-ups and then they intro­duce you into the mys­ter­ies of High School. I know as a fresh­man I spent a fair amount of time in a trash can, and as a senior I spent a fair amount of time putting fresh­men in trash cans. This is what gives the film its stay­ing pow­er, while it is nos­tal­gic for a high school in a spe­cif­ic time peri­od, it gives enough arche­typ­al exam­ples of high school behav­ior that any­one who’s been there can relate to it.


Cri­te­ri­on Essay by Kent Jones.
Cri­te­ri­on Essay by Jim DeRo­gatis.
Dazed and Confused.net.
Damox Fan­site.
Cinepad review.
• YouTube clips [1, 2].
Wood­er­son et al. v. Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Inc. et al.