SLACKER (Dir. Richard Linklater, 1991, US) - Lost in Austin
The opening titles with Linklater
Director Richard Linklater’s 1991 breakthrough feature Slacker is arguably one of his most philosophical and radical works. Shot on a low budget in his home town of Austin, Texas, the film dispenses with plot entirely and embraces an orchestrated randomness as we are introduced to a series of colourful Austin inhabitants. Brilliantly scripted by Linklater, the screenplay contains some memorable and very complex ideological dialogue that is representative of the various slackers that we meet - individuals who have taken a decision to openly reject conformist capitalist society while advocating a cool form of dissent as a favourable lifestyle. The film opens with director Linklater getting of a coach and taking a taxi cab in which he relates a lengthy ramble on the choices people make and the existence of alternate realities. Linklater’s dialogue seems both improvised and seemingly random but it is a stream of consciousness that ebbs and flows to establish an infectious tone as we are taken in by each character’s vivid narratives. The term slacker is synonymous with youth, laziness and potheads but here it means something radical. A slacker in Linklater’s world is someone who seems socially and politically autonomous in their criticisms of the dominant capitalist systems. In a way, such an analogy summarises the position of Linklater as a filmmaker since he has alternated between independent and mainstream cinema yet managing to hold on to authorial interests/concerns. A rebelliousness marks the work of Linklater and many of his protagonists are marginal Americans, living an existence characterised by a slackerdom philosophy. One can see how influential a film like Slacker was on later American indies such as Clerks but it is a film that also draws on the work of Godard, American Graffiti and cult film Repo Man. What I admire most about Linklater is his capacity to make films on his terms - this has resulted in highly original films such as Dazed & Confused, Before Sunrise, A Scanner Darkly and Bernie. Additionally, by remaining in Austin to build the infrastructure for future filmmakers Linklater has retained artistic integrity and also his coolness, making him a director that many aspire to emulate. As for Slacker, it is an achingly beautiful film that captures a certain youth zeitgeist and does so with remarkable cinematic rhythms.