Dazed and Confused: Criterion Collection Blu-ray review
This fabulous Criterion release of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused is an essential purchase for your collection. Fully loaded with special features, this joyous and melancholic ode to being young, irresponsible, and getting fucked up is simply irresistible. Thanks largely to the incredible cast of (at the time) unknown actors, this endlessly quotable film has graduated over the years from cult classic to almost iconic status.
Dazed and Confused’s stunning ensemble introduced the world to some of biggest names in Hollywood. You’ve got Ben Affleck arriving fully formed as the ultimate screen asshole, a persona he would use frequently over the coming decades. Then there’s the likes of Milla Jovovich, Jason London, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Cole Hauser, and even Renée Zellweger, albeit in a non-speaking role. But the film belongs to Matthew McConaughey and his hilarious performance as the swaggering creep Wooderson, with his now legendary catchphrase, “alright alright alright.”
Set in the suburbs of Austin, Texas in 1976, Dazed and Confused takes place entirely over one day and night. It’s the last of day of school, and next year’s senior class are planning to go out in style with a big party. The star quarterback, Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) is at odds with the coach, who wants him to sign a pledge that he won’t drink or do drugs over the summer. But all Pink wants to do is kick back, drink some beers, and smoke some weed. Meanwhile, the incoming high school freshmen for next year are hoping to tag along to the party, assuming they can survive the ritualistic hazing that comes with being the new kids.
There’s really not much more to the film than that. There’s no structure to the plot, or any real drama to speak of, but that’s what makes it work. These kids aren’t going through massive dramas in their life. They just want to have a good time, find something to do, and maybe get tickets to see Aerosmith if they’re lucky. That kind of shit is relatable, whether you grew up in the 70s, or saw this as a teenager in the 90s when it was initially released.
There’s a real timelessness to Linklater’s film. You see yourself and the people you went to school with in the characters depicted here. The classic rock soundtrack spans generations. Even through the specificity of time and place – 1976, America’s Bicentennial – the social concerns are still relevant. Kids worrying about their future whilst the adults do their best to screw it up is very 2019. When one of the teachers reminds them that when they celebrate the Fourth of July, they are commemorating a bunch of slave-owning, white male aristocrats who didn’t want to pay their taxes, it’s a potent reminder that no matter how old you get, this shit stays the same age.
The disc is absolutely bulging with special features, starting with a director’s commentary from Richard Linklater recorded exclusively for Criterion in 2005. There’s also 25-minutes of deleted scenes and un-restored footage.
Making Dazed and Confused, directed by Kahane Cooperman is an in-depth documentary featuring behind the scenes footage from the 1992 shoot of the film, as well as footage from the ten-year cast reunion. There are interviews and contributions from all of the main players. If you love this movie, you will love this documentary.
A little gem from the archives up next, the disc comes with the taped auditions for most of the main cast, including Jason London, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Michelle Burke, Wiley Wiggins, and Matthew McConaughey.
With so many first-time and inexperienced actors in the film, it was clearly a heavily rehearsed and workshopped project, and this is evidenced through the next chunk of features on the disc. There’s 40-minutes of interviews with the cast talking about their characters whilst in character. This is interesting as some of them are really into it, whereas others are far less so.
Next up is more than 45-minutes of interviews with the cast and director from before and during the shoot. Then there’s 30-minutes of candid behind the scenes footage from rehearsals and on the set. Finally, the disc is rounded off with the theatrical trailer.
This release also comes with a booklet featuring essays by Kent Jones, Jim DeRogatis, and Chuck Klosterman. There are reprinted recollections of the filming from the cast and crew. Also included are character profiles from the Dazed and Confused companion book, as well as the original film poster by Frank Kozik.
Have you gone and bought this yet? No? It’d be a lot cooler if you did.