Studio: The Criterion Collection
Cast: Jason London, Wiley Wiggins, Rory Cochrane, Sasha Jenson, Michelle Burke, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Matthew McConaughey, Marissa Ribisi, Shawn Andrews, Cole Hauser, Milla Jovavich, Joey Lauren Adams, Christin Hinojosa, Ben Affleck, Jason O. Smith, Parker Posey, Deena Martin, Nicky Katt
Director: Richard Linklater
Release Date: October 25, 2011
Rating: R for pervasive, continuous teen drug and alcohol use, very strong language
Run Time: 01:42m:28s
"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." - Randall "Pink" Floyd (Jason London)
Richard Linklater captures the stony glee of high school life with a film conceptually intended to be an American Graffiti for the 1970s, and now it is reborn on Blu-Ray from Criterion. Spread across one day, Dazed and Confused sports a large ensemble cast and one hell of a bitchin' soundtrack.
Movie Grade: A
DVD Grade: A
When dOc's Dan Heaton wrote a review of the SD Criterion release of Dazed and Confused in 2006 he pretty much nailed the sentiment and adoration I've always held for the film, as well. I'm not sure if he shares my infatuation with Marissa Ribisi or not, but that's between Dan and I. So instead of reinventing the wheel the discussion portion of Dazed... is a reprint of Dan's mighty fine 2006 review, but I have updated the image/audio/extras section for this 2011 release of the Criterion Blu-Ray edition.
Here's what Dan had to say about the film:
The 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.
Criterion's 1.85:1 AVC-encoded high-def transfer was approved and supervised by Richard Linklater and director of photography Lee Daniel, as was the 2006 release. Whereas the previous SD Criterion was the film's finest hour up to that point, this new 1080p transfer of Dazed... now takes that crown, even besting the recent and generally decent Universal BD. The color palette here is much more natural and dramatically less juiced than the Universal disc, making the whole film look and feel more cinematically authentic. Image clarity is generally strong, but holds that natural balance of occasional softness to reflect the time period - whether intentional or not. Perhaps not a show-off-your-system BD, Criterion's presentation looks consistently excellent and certainly very "film-like", if that makes sense.
Audio gets an upgradable boost, as well, delivered here by a single 5.1 DTS HD-MA soundtrack. Much like the 2006 release dialogue isn't really where this track excels, though voice quality is certainly fine, if not a bit bit thin in spots. Instead it is the constant 1970s rock that permeates the film that allows the DTS to kick out some deep, clean .LFE throughout. Not an especially aggressive surround presentation, but the music is kicked up substantially. Play it loud, dude.
If you own the 2006 Criterion you won't find anything new here, supplemental-wise. But there's a lot here to enjoy. A heavy cardboard slipcase houses a foldout case - festooned with photos and 70s style artwork - that holds the single disc. Also included inside the case is a 72-page book featuring photos, essays, character profiles and production information as well as a retro-colorful 20x14 poster by Frank Kozik.
The disc carries the same 2006 commentary from Linklater, a listenable and effusive recollection that covers some of the same ground found in the accompanying doc. It's really Linklater's likeable presence and natural enthusiasm for the film itself and what it meant to him that makes this worth a spin.
The remainder of the extras are in 108i, and consist of a block of anamorphic widescreen deleted scenes (25m:31s), a comprehensive documentary entitled Making "Dazed" (45m:35s), a set of twelve assorted audition tapes (23m:18s) and the sprawling Beer Bust At The Moon Tower that runs as long as the film itself. Beer Bust... is split into three sections, made up of Character Interviews, Cast and Director Interviews and Behind-The-Scenes Footage.
Posted by: Rich Rosell - November 12, 2011, 9:19 am - DVD Review
Keywords: comedy, 1970s, stoner, american graffiti, richard linklater