Blog Directory CineVerse: Slacker tracker

Slacker tracker

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Upon first watch, Richard Linklater's "Slacker" is not an easy picture to parse. But there are layers there waiting to be peeled back. Here's what our CineVerse group discovered underneath:

There’s really no plot, no main character (in fact, there are numerous small characters and vignettes throughout the movie), very little action or conflict, and no main structure.
The characters seem to segue between one another as unrelated but unintentionally interconnected links on a chain; this is a technique we’ve seen in previous films, including Grand Canyon, Crash, Short Cuts, magnolia, etc.
It looks very low-budget (it was made for only $23,000, of course), shoestring, and random/spontaneous, but it feels like it’s in the hands of skilled filmmakers who know what they’re doing.
The film employs several repeated techniques, including lengthy extended takes, extensive use of camera tracking, and smooth transitions between shots
This has a very time capsule -like feel to it, endemic of the early 90s and speaking for and about young Generation X. That’s not to say that the film is hopelessly dated and irrelevant today, but the lackadaisical, cynical and “slacker” vibe of this milieu may not resonate as much today.
For that matter, does the word “slacker” (which, apparently, became a household word on the heels of this film) still carry any weight today? Does it remain in the popular vernacular?
For being a film “about nothing,” like a Seinfeld episode, it actually has some interesting things to say: Budd Wilkins, in his Slant Magazine review, wrote: “Slacker is a profoundly philosophical film that borrows its round-robin experimental narrative structure from art-house classics like Max Ophüls's La Ronde and, more importantly, especially given the film's underlying preoccupation with the possibilities of—as well as constraints on—human freedom, Luis Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty. In fact, it's amusing to consider Slacker as a sort of spiritual sequel to Buñuel's film. Both films emphasize the sovereignty of the imagination, as well as the dangers of lapsing into self-absorbed solipsism, and both are equally acerbic when pointing out the pitfalls of naively engaged political activity.”
The film has a documentary-like realism that feels like random, authentic encounters with strangers on the street. The long takes and mobile camera/tracking shots lend to this documentary style.
Unflappable aloofness: these people don’t seem to care about important events, such as a woman injured on the pavement, a roommate who has moved out mysteriously, strangers who follow you around or spout nonsensical ramblings at you, etc.
Inactivity – “The virtues of inaction,” as put by Criterion Collection essayist Ron Rosenbaum.
“The immense effort required in order not to create”; the slacker aesthetic questions art, creativity, hard work, structure and conformity.
Anarchy and chaos: “(Slacker) appears to have no structure, to be chaotic (a matter of random encounters), when, in fact, it has a very subtle, extremely well-crafted structure that makes it a portrait of chaos,” Rosenbaum suggested.
Parallel universes, first posited by the cab passenger in the opening scene, suggesting that there are countless lives, choices, possibilities, just as there seems to be countless interwoven characters in this movie.
Art appearing as anti-art: this is a film that, on the surface, appears to be anti-intellectual, aimless, and pointless, but in a sly and subtle manner reveals itself by the end to actually be an art-house film that espouses intellectual thoughts and theories, has a deliberate structure after all, and makes a point about the subculture is featuring.
“Oblique strategies,” as one character in the film says.
Life as a random movie—there’s a lot of taping, filming, and watching screens that occurs in this film.
Monologues vs. dialogues: most of the talking comes from one person proselytizing to another person(s) who is relatively quiet.
Random violence: consider the characters who wield guns, how a son runs down his mother with his car, the woman’s black eye, the space shuttle explosion and nuclear blast shown on TV, the talk of assassinations, the prediction that one character “will be dead in a fortnight.”
Being young, broke, and rudderless.
Conspiracy theories as credos/manifestos: one character claims Elvis is still alive, another insists a UFO was seen during the moon landing, another claims Jack Ruby killed JFK.
“Fragmented narrative” movies featuring supposedly random encounters between numerous characters who are depicted without much character development or back stories, including Magnolia, Babel, Last Year at Marienbad, Short Cuts, and others.
Dazed and Confused
Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight-- a romantic trilogy
School of Rock
A Scanner Darkly
Everybody Wants Some

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