Half way through Richard Linklater’s first proper feature, SLACKER, I had the notion to dismiss it as a self indulgent collection of vignettes designed to make the writer / director look clever without delivering anything in the way of cinematic pleasure.
An hour after watching the film, I realise I’m wrong.
Despite the picture succeeding in drawing attention to itself, by that I mean everything about its construction, it does carry the audience on a journey, but one in which there is no protagonist, no villain and no (as Alfred Hitchcock perfectly describes) MacGuffin.
It would appear that life, fate and the beauty of humanity’s choreography are the main considerations of this intelligent look at diversity on a deeply philosophical level. The camera is the eye of an unseen, unspoken observer. Walking through town, sitting in a cafe, in a bar, attending an all but empty local rock concert…… amongst many other scenarios. We see a multitude of people, some for a few seconds, some for whole scenes. They go about their day, jog, discuss, it’s all extremely natural.
Lee Daniel‘s cinematography is unremarkable but paradoxically, impresses most as it fits the style of the picture perfectly. We move from scene to scene with transitions coming whenever the frame is infiltrated by another person. We may be focussing on 2 people talking on the street, they comment on a passer by, the camera then follows the passer by to spend a few minutes in their life. We never find out names, never really find out where they’ve been, where they’re going or why. Just like reality however, we form an opinion on what makes that character tick within the first few seconds.
It’s best explained by having a look at a clip. I’ve uploaded one of my favourite scenes. A typical chance meeting leads to a bizarre story of gun totin’ freeway drivers and Madonna’s pubic hair….. Yes, I mean it.
Watching this section pretty much sums up the film. The one obviously unreal element to the picture is that everyone covered has something interesting about them, there doesn’t seem to be any boring sad sacks in this town. The quota of colourful characters is maybe on par with Greenwich Village, New York in the 60’s or Washington Square at the height of the Beat Generation….. Not a bad thing.