Reader Recommendation by Paul Kemp
DIRECTED BY: Richard Linklater
FEATURING: Richard Linklater
PLOT: A “Day in the Life” movie revolving around the college scene of Austin, Texas.
WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: It is scriptless fiction.
COMMENTS: Back in the 1990s there was an independent film that turned the film industry on its head. It launched careers and changed the face of independent film making. The movie was Clerks. Just a couple of years prior to that, another independent film came out, it had little fanfare and, other than its creator, it launched no careers. That movie was Slacker.
Slacker was the brainchild of Richard Linklater, who would later find success in more mainstream coming of age films like Dazed and Confused. Slacker used first person camera shots and was essentially scriptless, with most of the dialogue coming via improvisation and ad libs. If that sounds vaguely familiar to you, Linklater used the same improvisation style in his “Before” series movies: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. It is this same method that added the authentic feel to The Blair Witch Project, a movie not of Linklater’s creation but one that seems heavily influenced by Linklater’s visionary style.
If you are looking for a strong leading character, I would have to advise you to look elsewhere. The lead character constantly changes as the camera starts out initially following Linklater and then moves on to different characters throughout the movie. The camera never stays on any character for more than a few minutes and usually once the character is gone, we never see them again.
Slacker feels like a documentary, but make no mistake, it is fiction. What makes Slacker weird is Linklater’s brilliant camera work, scriptless dialogue, and the lack of any defining character. However, none of those groundbreaking characteristics really define what makes Slacker great. Slacker perfectly captured what it meant to be a member of “Generation X” before those twenty-somethings even knew they were called “Generation X.” The vignettes revolve around the college kids and locals of Austin, but it could have easily taken place in any decently sized city in America. I recently watched Slacker and was amazed at how the movie was still fresh more than twenty years later. . . that is, if you can get past those early 1990s clothes and hair styles.