Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Meandering but that's the point: Revisiting SLACKER
I recently re-watched Richard Linklater's 1991 debut SLACKER, a thoughtful, aimless and bold free associating take on cinematic storytelling or how to break the conventional rules of storytelling ala Godard style. Slacker goes from character to character, all of whom talk at great lengths about their theories of life, art, conspiracies, politics, love and even how The Smurfs were a parable about communism and Krishna.
Linklater covers a small landscape of Austin, Texas in the late 80s when he shot this film. The people you meet in this film can be labelled any which way: hippies, bohemians, freaks, weirdos, loners, mental cases but the term slacker is the term Linklater prefers and he is in intent on applying it in a positive way despite the word's negative and dismissive connitation.
In his audio commentary, he states that his characters, even though you only see them fleetingly, are active people full of energy and purpose. To him, a slacker is defined by a person whose goals and sense of being aren't determined by the conventional and expected ways of living--the 9-5 job you hate but need, keeping your outspoken and odds beliefs to yourself. The characters aren't ashamed or embarrassed to share their fears and strong beliefs with some stranger on the street. They have a sense of pride in their own neurosis. "I may live badly, but at least I don't have to *work* to do it." says a footloose hitchiker.
One memorable scene has a young woman run into some friends on a street corner and proceed to show off a papsmear that supposedly belonged to Madonna. In his commentary, Linklater says a friend remarked to him that the future of pornography would be celebrity papsmears.
The remarkable thing about Linklater's writing and directing approach with SLACKER is his lack of judgement for the people on screen. He is almost calling out anybody who would be quick to judge or dismiss these characters, despite only being on screen for a few minutes. Their odd behaviour can obviously be off-putting but it isn't boring and it's certainly revealing of certain human nature. SLACKER contains walking, talking, embodied bloggers before the internet inspired some of these folk off the streets and onto their laptops in a basement.
Footnote: The great Criterion DVD release of Slacker contains deleted scenes, a reunion video of the cast and crew, Linklater's first feature, shot on Super8 entitled IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO LEARN HOW TO PLOW BY READING BOOKS.