Dazed and Confused (Linklater, 1993)

The great irony of Dazed and Confused, a film celebrating the vibrancy and unpredictability of youth, is that it only gets better as I grow older. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this masterpiece, but I do know with each viewing I’ve brought more of my own life experience to this story of growing up fast and in turn, gleaned more from Linklater’s vision. This time around, the director’s groupings of heroes and villains stands out, represented on the welcoming side by Jason London and Michelle Burke, and on the evil team, both Ben Affleck and Parker Posey. The heroes of Dazed and Confused are shepherds, gatekeepers dealing with their own changing identities, but also looking after the young freshman coming into their own with a little guidance from their experienced elders. Those that do not care about the future, the arrogant flunkey O’Bannion, played with ease and disturbing resonance by Affleck and his female equivalent played by Posey, wish to harm the youthful exuberance of Wiley Wiggins and Christin Hinojosa, probably because they were hurt themselves at that age. It’s an astounding dynamic between age groups – those that wish to pass on knowledge in a positive light (even if that knowledge is morally ambiguous), and those that wish to destroy expectations, futures, and hopes of finding friendships in an alien place called high school. Dazed and Confused uses this story structure, aided by one of the great soundtracks of all time, to realize a beautiful, life-changing night for many young adults (and some older ones, McConaughey). For me, it’s one of the 10 Best American Films of the 1990’s, because it speaks so clearly and fluidly to me as a growing, learning adult, deceiving pre-conceived notions and altering the way I remember my own memories. Richard Linklater has always been one of my idols, and I never could quite figure out why. I realize now, his films evolve as I evolve, and that’s the best compliment I could ever bestow upon a filmmaker.

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