Dazed and Confused: Criterion Collection

January 28, 2012 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

”That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”

Every so often a movie comes around with a somewhat unknown cast and then…something happens. A star is born! And then two! And before you know it, this movie is known as “the one” which was a veritable launching pad for a new slew of Hollywood stars and starlets. “American Graffiti” was that movie for the 70’s, featuring the likes of Harrison Ford, Ron Howard and Richard Dreyfuss. “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” was that movie for the 80’s with Forrest Whittacker, Sean Penn, Eric Stoltz and Phoebe Cates. And wouldn’t you know it, “Dazed and Confused” was that movie for the 90’s. “Dazed and Confused” featured a cast of then fairly unknowns and the two biggest stars: Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck had some fairly big parts. Jason London, Adam Goldberg, Parker Posey and Milla Jovovich also have supporting roles and have all found a degree of success since this movie came out. Director Richard Linklater wrote the screenplay and it plays a lot like his earlier “Slacker”, albeit with a more liner plot. So what’s so great about this movie which made it land on critics’ Top Ten lists (back in 1993)? Read on and find out…

It’s the last day of school in 1976 and we follow the lives of several students as they get ready for their Summer before their Senior year. Parties are planned and the ritualistic hazing of the Freshman is about to begin. Randall “Pink” Floyd (Jason London) is the school’s All-Star quarterback who has found a new group of friends. He’s torn between being a jock and being a stoner. As we meet the group of people that compose the movie we see that they range between the nerdy (Mike and Tony) to the utterly useless (Slater). Now earlier I mentioned that this had a more linear plot than “Slacker”, but it’s not a liner story per se. We essentially follow about twenty different people during one night of the year. Like “Slacker”, the movie will often go off on a tangent and concentrate on a new group of people. The “Emporium” is the central focus of the story; it’s the main place for everyone to hang out and for the freshman to recuperate after being beaten by the seniors. It’s also the place where we see perhaps the greatest character in modern film: David Wooderson (Matthew McConaughey), words simply can’t do this man justice and I’ll leave it at that.

“Dazed and Confused” is one of those movies that’s really hard to put into words (as you’ve no doubt noticed), it’s an ensemble piece that has held up very well through the last dozen years. The cast is stellar and it’s a real testament to Richard Linklater, who is still producing some of the more interesting and creative movies out there (we’ll discount “The Newton Boys”). Linklater is a native Texan and was right at home here and I’d have to say that this features one of the best assortments of 70’s songs out there. If you’re one of the few that haven’t seen this movie, make it a point to do so. Universal came out with a bare bones edition some time ago and then another “Flashback” edition that had an improved transfer, but was lacking on the supplements. I’m happy to say that Criterion, as per usual, has set the bar very high and this is the definitive edition of the movie. It might be a bit pricey, but I assure you that it’s worth every penny.

Video: How does it look?

This appears to be the same anamorphic transfer that was used for the “Flashback” edition, but it seems to be a bit brighter and sharper in some areas. This was a low budget movie, so it’s not as glossy and glamorous as some of the more high profile films, but the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer really brings new life to the movie. The transfer has a newfound clarity that I had missed for so many viewing on, sigh, VHS and though there is a bit of dirt on the print, its heads and tails better than it has been in previous home video releases. Flesh tones seem warm and natural and though there are a number of scenes at night, the transfer represents them well throughout. A nice job by Criterion on the transfer.

Audio: How does it sound?

The original DVD was a Dolby Surround mix that sounded ok but Criterion has added a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix as well as a DTS 5.1 mix that really brings out new life in the audio. For one, the dialogue is much stronger and clearer. Though I didn’t hear a lot of sound out of the surrounds, they really did kick in whenever some of the great 70’s songs came on. It really brought new meaning to “Surround Sound”. I will say that this isn’t the movie you’ll want to listen to for true dynamic audio, but the sound is so much better than in previous incarnations, it’s a night and day difference. Another nice job by Criterion for adding a DTS mix.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Criterion has given this movie the two disc treatment and for good reason, it’s bursting with supplements. The first disc contains the movie with a commentary by Linklater. Linklater is very candid with his comments, he was a younger filmmaker at the time and acknowledges that. He comments on the cast and crew and naturally the success that a majority of them have had since the film. The second disc contains the rest of the supplements leading off with a 50 minute documentary of the movie, it’s entitled “Making Dazed”. Kahane Corn, a filmmaker, shot the documentary and it brings new life into what the story was trying to tell. It’s interesting and certainly a good watch for true fans of the movie. There’s some behind the scenes footage and footage from the 10 year anniversary of the movie as well as some audition footage, some deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer. What’s most cool is the 72 page book that details the shoot, the movie and has some great pictures throughout. All of this comes in a neat little case complete with new cover art (the original poster) designed by Frank Kozik. Suffice it to say that if you’re a fan of this movie then THIS is the version we’ve all been waiting for.

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