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The Criterion Collection presents
"All I'm saying is that if I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself."
DVD ReviewThe story seems all-too familiar: It's the last day of school and the kids are energized by the summer break. They spend the night driving around town, drinking and using drugs, searching for love, and getting involved in all types of mayhem. Have you seen this type of movie before? Undoubtedly, the answer is a resounding "yes." What's different about Dazed and Confused? Everything. Writer/director Richard Linklater uses the typical formula and converts it into a fun, insightful picture that works for any time period.
The film takes place in May 1976 at a small Texas town where the kids have little to do but look for the next party. The jocks, stoners, geeks, and everyone in between come together for a crazy night of fun. Mitch Kramer (Wiley Wiggins) and his buddies have just graduated from junior high school, and as an initiation ritual the high school seniors pursue them with paddles. The older guys are led by the oafish Fred O'Bannon (Ben Affleck), who seems more concerned with this frat-like activity than the fact that he flunked his classes. A more kid-friendly jock is Randall "Pink" Floyd (Jason London), who plays quarterback but hangs with a different crowd. His attention is focused on a required form presented by his coach to join the team. It prohibits the typical party activities, and he vehemently refuses to sign it.
These small plot elements only provide a minor portion of this compelling film, which avoids focusing too much on any specific aspect. None of the characters (even the idiot O'Bannon) are written as one-dimensional, which makes even the possibly creepy characters understandable. Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey) is a much-older guy who still spends his time hanging with the high schoolers. His outlook is explained in the following quote: "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age." This character does seem a bit scary, but he's played as just another guy in the town who parties with everyone. Even his interest in the intellectual Cynthia (Marissa Ribisi) isn't set up for any type of nasty payoff. It simply provides a few brief moments within a much-larger palette. With so many characters involved, you might think the stories are difficult to follow. However, the scenes flow incredibly well and continue to gain energy throughout the feature.
The huge cast includes many actors who would go on to achieve huge success in Hollywood. Affleck and McConaughey both do a great job and avoid their usual over-the-top attempts at charm in recent Hollywood comedies. Parker Posey and Joey Lauren Adams both play small parts, and each one would go on to succeed within the burgeoning world of independent film. Wiggins rarely appears in films these days, but his performance as the innocent Mitch is one of the movie's best. Other notable faces like Adam Goldberg, Cole Hauser, Nicky Katt, and Milla Jovavich showcase the skills that would make them household names today. All the actors understand their roles and play them well, which brings authenticity to the overall environment.
Linklater (Slacker, Suburbia) is a master at crafting dialogue that feels real without being dull, and he weaves together the multiple stories wonderfully. The events do include significant underage drinking and drug use, but the tone remains enjoyable and reflects the crazy times of youth when the pressures of life barely existed. The characters' largest worries are finding a site for the party, hooking up, and just having a great time. Linklater appears to truly understand the feelings of each character, ranging from Adam Goldberg's Mike, who wants to "dance" and forget about law school, to Rory Cochrane's Slater and his obsession with marijuana. Nothing feels contrived or unnecessary, which leads to a fascinating and touching experience.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Supervised by Richard Linklater and director of photography Lee Daniel, this newly remastered 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer improves on past DVD releases, which also offered a stellar picture. The changes aren't easy to recognize, but the image does include sharper colors and less grain that the previous incarnation. This high-definition, digital transfer effectively transports us into the '70s environment and offers an excellent presentation.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: One of the most important elements of Dazed and Confused is its rockin' soundtrack of '70s classics, and the audio presentation must be top-notch. This release imports the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital and DTS transfers from the previous DVD, and it should please fans of the music. The dialogue is also very clear, and the sounds resound well from all the speakers. The DTS transfer has a bit more depth, but you can't go wrong with either option.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
17 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater Commentary
Recorded in New York on January 20 of 2006, this feature-length commentary from the writer/director is entertaining and informative from beginning to end. Linklater calls the film a "greatest hits" of his high school career and his most personal creation. His enthusiasm for the picture is engaging and makes the track even more worthwhile. Much of the information conveyed is also included in the book and documentary, but it still is compelling to hear it directly from him while the film is playing.
This release includes a larger amount of deleted scenes that the previous disc, which offered nine scenes covering about 15 minutes. This edition provides 17 scenes running for more than 25 minutes, of varying picture and sound quality. This footage includes extended moments that are mostly unnecessary but still interesting. Many involve the characters just hanging out and chatting about the story, which allows some of the lesser-seen actors to receive more screen time.
Making "Dazed" Documentary
This 45-minute documentary originally aired on AMC in September 2005, and it provides impressive background on the production. It includes footage from the 1992 shoot and the 2003 cast reunion, both in Austin, Texas. Many cast and crew members offer their recollections, with the best coming from Linklater, Producer Don Phillips, and Matthew McConaughey. The doc also explores some problems on the set, particularly between the director and producer James Jack. Although they both make valid points, Jack comes off like an arrogant jerk. The early footage is also excellent in showing the youth and inexperience of the cast, who played around at the hotel and became friends during the production. Making "Dazed" is one of the better documentaries that I've seen on a recent DVD release.
This 23-minute collection of auditions includes footage of 12 actors trying out in rough, home-video type footage. This type of feature doesn't really interest me, but viewers who enjoy seeing the actors reading for parts should eat up this inclusion.
Located within the area titled "Beer Bust at the Moon Tower" are three sections containing a wealth of behind-the-scenes material and interviews. The first section runs for 40 minutes and includes conversations with 13 actors about their characters. Most of them speak about their roles in the third person, but Parker Posey remains in character as Darla, chewing gum and smoking while speaking about her life. These clips might be a bit much for some viewers, but they are interesting for devotees who can't have enough information about the film.
Cast and Director Interviews
Easily the best of the three sections, this area includes 12 clips of interviews from 1992 and 2003 discussing various aspects of the film. Running for 47 minutes, the interviews begin with Linklater one day prior to shooting describing himself as feeling like a "17-year-old." The cast interviews are generally silly, with the most noteworthy involving Adam Goldberg and Nicky Katt hanging out 20 minutes after shooting their fight scene and Wiley Wiggins and Catherine Morris preparing for their on-screen kiss. We also receive a lengthier discussion on the discovery of McConaughey during a random interaction at an Austin hotel bar.
Behind the Scenes Footage
This 30-minute grouping of clips provides all types of random footage from the production, including Ben Affleck struggling to drive, costume modeling, and Wiley Wiggins returning to school in the fall. The final inclusion is shots of the cast having fun at the time of the Austin reunion. This moment again reveals the camaraderie felt by the cast and fostered by Linklater.
Original Theatrical Trailer
The film's original trailer is presented in the full-frame format at about television quality. It includes many of the partying aspects of the story, but misses the more poignant moments.
Commemorative Book and Movie Poster
Criterion is know for including intriguing essays and other text material within their releases, and this stands as one of the most extensive of its kind. The 72-page full-color booklet includes essays from Kent Jones, Jim DeRogatis, Chuck Klosterman, and John Spong. It also contains a song list (by DVD chapter) and "Profiles in Confusion," which gives extensive details on each character. The other item is the full-color original movie poster, which includes the classic car and head shots of many of the characters.
Extras Grade: A
Final CommentsCriterion has finally provided the countless fans of Dazed and Confused with the DVD edition they justly deserve. The 72-page booklet offers a wealth of information on its own, and the considerable behind-the-scenes footage gives us a glimpse into the enjoyable production. Richard Linklater contributes significantly to this release, which is a must-own for film lovers everywhere. Give away the former bare-bones editions and pick up this excellent two-disc set.
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