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Film Club: Slacker


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#41 Darren H

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Posted 11 April 2005 - 09:19 AM

I didn't realize until just a few days ago that Krizan also plays that hot, feminist teacher in Dazed and Confused.

#42 Persona

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Posted 11 April 2005 - 09:35 AM

Man, I wish I had something of value to add here. I watched Slacker over the weekend and actually quite liked it, although I got a little zoned out in some of the philosophical mumble jumble from time to time, but it reminded me of people that I know and love, although the people in the film are a little more freaked up than those in my life that it reminded me of. It actually reminded me a little of this forum. A subculture of art inclined mini-philosophers hoping to learn experience and expression and maybe one day take it to the next level of effecting the broader more mainstream culture. The more I think about it, the more I really want to see the film again. I even thought (gasp) that I might rewatch Waking Life again someday, a film that I believe I've fallen asleep on several times.

-s.

Edited by stef, 11 April 2005 - 09:36 AM.


#43 Titus

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Posted 11 April 2005 - 03:32 PM

I've not seen this film in a couple of years, and have only watched it once to begin with. I was, however, enamored with it enough to recently purchase the Criterion 2-disc package of it. Perhaps I should've refrained from partaking in this thread until after a viewing of it, but given how belated I already am and the fact that I don't have a completely open two hours for a few days, I figured I'd shoot anyway cool.gif

I'm a huge Linklater fan. In fact, I usually maintain that he's my favorite American filmmaker, outside of Paul Thomas Anderson, to surface since Joel and Ethan Coen. Slacker is quintessentially his in every way, and in fact may be his trademark picture. I think it's primary focus is merely painting a portrait of a generation, or a subculture of a generation, of people.

Linklater's always shyed away from traditional narratives, but he almost always is able to spin some sort of story for the audience. Not so in Slacker, which even differs from the ostensibly similar Waking Life in that we don't even have a focal character to share our discoveries with -- the only guide we have through the film's plethora of colorful characters is the camera. We're not supposed to hinge our entire experience on one or two characters, we're supposed to let the experience of dozens and dozens of characters wash over us without any major revelations occuring for any of them.

I've never seen Slacker as being particularly satirical, I think it embraces the culture it presents. Linklater's always been a philosopher at heart, and has said that he's got a great deal of empathy for young adults trying to discover meaning for their existence. I think he's given us Slacker as a celebration of sorts to this niche of people. While pointedly presenting the culture, he manages to refrain from passing any real comment on them, and he seems genuinely engaged in the conversations these people are having (he, and we as the audience, are essentially participants in these discussions). That's where I think this film crosses over from merely being interesting into being completely engrossing. It's a paean to the universal yearning for truth and meaning while simultaneously masquerdaing as an expose on a generation of people I can identify with a great deal.

But then, as I said, I haven't seen the film in a couple of years tongue.gif . Apologies for how muddled my comments may be, I really need to watch the film again and refresh my memory as to why I was so tickled by it. What I basically wrote are vague recollections about why I liked it at the time. Nevertheless, I just stumbled onto this precious site and to find that there was a serious discussion going on about a picture that I've recently had on my mind and have been planning to watch again soon........well, I'm afraid I didn't have the willpower to keep my mouth shut regarding the manner biggrin.gif .

#44 Darren H

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Posted 11 April 2005 - 03:49 PM

Welcome, Titus. I enjoyed reading your comments.

It's interesting that you raised the topic of rating directors. I might go so far as to say that Linklater is my favorite active American filmmaker, regardless of generation. Obviously, this will be difficult for folks who haven't seen many of his films, but I wonder if we can make any useful generalizations about Linklater by comparing him to his contemporaries.

I'm also a fan of PT Anderson and, to a lesser (and lessening) extent, Wes Anderson, both of whom have been described as "humanist filmmakers." I'm not sure what that means exactly except that they write round characters (PT more than Wes). I'm tempted to say that Linklater's films are even more "human" than theirs, though.

I don't know where I'm going with this . . .

#45 Titus

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Posted 11 April 2005 - 04:40 PM

QUOTE(Darren H @ Apr 11 2005, 03:49 PM)
I'm also a fan of PT Anderson and, to a lesser (and lessening) extent, Wes Anderson, both of whom have been described as "humanist filmmakers."  I'm not sure what that means exactly except that they write round characters (PT more than Wes).  I'm tempted to say that Linklater's films are even more "human" than theirs, though.

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I think it's reasonable to lump PT and Wes Anderson in with Linklater. What I find so refreshing about all of their work is the lack of irony. They attack issues and explore various themes without really winking at the audience. It's like they immerse themselves so completely in what they're trying to accomplish that they can't be bothered with the tired but accepted notion that any and all serious matters dealt with in film have to continually remind the audience that it's just a movie.

I can see why you may be souring on Wes, though. I haven't yet seen The Life Aquatic, and I did think Tenenbaums was a damn good picture, but I'm almost afraid that he's going to become a parody of himself. The satisfaction I've always derived from his work is his deft ability to handle such idiosyncratic characters in stride, to where we find them humorous but at the same time relate with them as real people. Perhaps it will never come to fruition, but I'm just a little worried that he's going to get carried away with his unique photography and writing wit that he forgets to inject the humanity copiously present in his first two films.

Neither PTA or Linklater have given me any reason to worry, though. In fact, each of their last efforts were my favorite American films for their respective years.

#46 Darren H

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Posted 11 April 2005 - 05:20 PM

I'll be very curious to hear what you think of The Life Aquatic. In my opinion, it's a realization of your fears. I saw it with a friend who put it this way: In the opening titles of Rushmore, Anderson creates the entire world of Rushmore Academy in, like, two minutes, then spends the rest of the film exploring the characters who inhabit that world; The Life Aquatic, by comparison, feels like two hours of world-building.

The lack of irony is definitely what draws me to Linklater. That's not to say that his characters don't speak ironically from time to time, but Linklater always seems unapologetically interested in what his characters have to say, and that interest is infectious.

#47 Thom

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 12:14 PM

My first reaction to such a movie is usually an immediate liking so I am not certain why this movie took two viewings; maybe it was too late the first night I put it in. This is a movie where you simply watch people live and somewhere in the background you put together a commentary on their lives. You connect your own dots and participate in the absolutely artistry of the visual experience. I am certain I am not adding anything new to this discussion but participation is invaluable.

After a second viewing I really liked Slacker; then after spending a bit of time with the commentaries and Linklaterís earlier works I really got pulled into the intention for creation. It was meant to be much more experimental in narrative form and was used as a vehicle for narrative structure to show the viewer a subculture as unbiased as possible. The viewer is really given a chance to place their own depiction of realism in regard to the narrative. They are able to create their own background for each character and determine their own reasoning for the characters actions. By creating a visually and verbally broken experience it allows the viewer to provide the narrative. This allows each viewer to have a different experience, to draw a different reaction; this is the way of art.

One thing I really appreciated and I believe it may have been unintentional on the part of Linklater, is the old man towards the end talking into the tape recorder. Is he a future reflection of the younger slackers? One who has exhausted all of his listening resources so much so that he has to speak into a tape recorder? He now has to resort to handing out tapes to people he has never met to complete the conversational model of speaker and listener. Could this be a vision of one who does not take an active part in making their lives progress while all others around them do? Is he the product of a lifetime spent as a slacker? This scene then transitions without any physical human interaction. This is the only time a character transition takes place without a more intimate setting. Could this display disconnect between generations? They do not seem to learn from one another, they do not interact or listen to each other.

I ended up with more questions than anything else and I appreciate a piece of art that makes me think beyond the visuals placed before me.


#48 Darren H

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Posted 13 April 2005 - 01:06 PM

Those are nice observations about the old man, Asher. I've never been sure how to take him. I guess one could take a slightly more optimistic approach to the scene, arguing that the old man is using technology to create a new form of communication that bridges the divide between young and old.

Can I take from your comments that you watched It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books? What did you think of it?

#49 JennyLynne

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 11:16 AM

I know discussion has been going
on for awhile, but I finally got to
sit down with this film this weekend.
Sadly, I couldn't make it through it.
I wanted to watch it, I wanted to
like it, but the characters going on
and on about nothing just got to me.
I realized it was intentional, but I
have to deal with enough people in
real life who will talk for ages about
topics as foreign to me as the
assassination theories -- the idea of
subjecting myself to it on film was
beyond what I could handle.

Some interesting scenes -- such
as the woman in the coffee shop,
the typewriter. I was rather intrigued
by those and thought the way the
actors reacted was excellent.

But yeah, I imagine I'll make another
effort at some point, but I think I'll
set this one aside.

#50 Thom

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Posted 18 April 2005 - 12:10 PM

QUOTE(Darren H @ Apr 13 2005, 03:06 PM)
Those are nice observations about the old man, Asher.  I've never been sure how to take him.  I guess one could take a slightly more optimistic approach to the scene, arguing that the old man is using technology to create a new form of communication that bridges the divide between young and old.

Can I take from your comments that you watched It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books?  What did you think of it?

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I think it is possible to take the more optimistic approach but it doesn't seem like the overall tone of the movie lends itself to optimism. None of these characters really listen, they just talk and that kind of interaction would seems to conclude in the character of the old man.

One scene that really stands out in regard to what the person who is subjected to the slackers pontifications thinks, is the scene where this guy and girl are going to the movies and she kind of tells him, "You sure don't do much with all that knowledge. Get it together." She then agrees to meet him later in order to get away from the conversation. She goes into a bookstore where she runs into the 'Kennedy conspiracy theoristí and looks a bit put out by his ramblings and only shows a polite interest. She just doesnít want to be around this slacker life style.

I did watch It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books. I really liked it but that may be due to the fact that I kept switching the commentary on and off. I like the experimental nature of the narrative structure. It seems that the traveling is what told a story, not dialogue or character interaction. This definitely helped me to see Slacker in a different light.

#51 Russ

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Posted 04 May 2005 - 12:50 PM

QUOTE(Darren H @ Mar 31 2005, 11:33 AM)
How is the tone of the film determined by the two opening sequences (Linklater's monologue and the mother-killer)?


Incidentally, what do you ultimately make of that mother-killer scene, Darren? The bits I listened to from the commentary suggest that such a person and occurrence was the stuff of legend around Austin. Giving flesh to a bit of somewhat sensationalistic college town lore is a fairly sharp contrast with populating the rest of the film with people who by and large he knew. I do love the way that scene blends in with the nonstop jogger and the talking guys on the sidewalk afterwards, but apart from taking the non-judgment principle to an almost absurd degree, I can't say that I think it fits with the rest of the film.