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.

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