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Slacker (Richard Linklater, 1991)

February 7, 2012

One of Richard Linklater’s earliest features and a pioneering contribution to the independent American cinema canon of the 1990s, Slacker is essentially one hundred minutes of a cycle of disconnected dialogue. Each scene focuses on a conversation or monologue, ending with the introduction of a character that will take centre stage in the upcoming segment and following that person out of the frame and into a new location. Disengaging with traditional narrative, the film’s structure floats erratically through people and their moral and philosophical conversations, creating the sense of an anthological collection of tenuously related shorts, akin to a route Linklater would later explore with films like Waking Life.

None of the individuals ever reappear following their departure, but a portrait of the Austin community is eventually established cumulatively through its concentration on the generation associated with the film’s title. The more eccentric individuals tend to leave a strong impression, and there is the occasional dose of interesting musings. Promoting an improvised aesthetic, the film’s production is in fact rooted in tight screenwriting. This perhaps explains the off-putting nature of many of the scenes, which come across as clumsy, inauthentic and forced due to the writing and delivery. The structure of the film resembles the slacker culture it portrays, and it ends in a playful, exuberant conclusion perhaps fitting of its subjects: the final shot of a camera being thrown from a cliff almost seems like the filmmakers becoming idle and giving up themselves. Slacker is ultimately an interesting experiment, admirable for its approach, but frequently bothersome and not consistently enthralling.

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