The man, after all, was in his early days a paragon of independent filmmaking and former student of Sam Houston State University (my alma mater), so perhaps it just seemed like I should have seen more of his movies than I have.
Regardless, his is an interesting career to look at, especially his earliest days behind the camera, beginning with his seminal (and debut) feature film, “Slacker.”
What struck me hardest upon watching this series of unrelated vignettes set amid the mishmash of personalities in and around the city of Austin is just how much the term “indie film” has become diluted over the last several years. These days, it almost feels more uncommon to not see some recognizable actor starring in some no-budget drama that will only play at the Sundance or Tribeca film festivals. Gone, it seems, are the days when a director would scrape together a budget in the low five figures and use his film school friends and classmates (and even people off the street) to populate his cinematic venture.
But that’s precisely what we get with Linklater’s “Slacker.” It’s an interesting bit of filmmaking, in that it feels like a rough draft, filled with ideas and commentary and a desire to stand out, but still not wholly formed. “Slacker” is a film as much about Linklater’s quest to find his voice as a creator as it is about providing snapshots of the colorful denizens of Austin.
h conspiracy theorists, eccentric collectors of televisions, jaded political junkies, lazy musicians and aimless college dropouts.
It feels a little aimless in its overall construction, never sticking to one subject or set of people for more than a few minutes, but that aimlessness feels fitting given the people that Linklater’s lens captures. It’s almost close to being a documentary in the way it never really passes judgment on these colorful characters but instead sets out to merely capture them in their element. We never really invest in anyone, nor are we meant to. It’s simply a window into a lifestyle that most would probably look down on, but few ever really take the time to understand or dissect.
Lo-fi and cheap as most of the film is, it’s still fairly impressive in its technical construction. Linklater’s camera placement may be simplistic, but it’s the way each vignette moves seamlessly from one to the other, seemingly uninterrupted and in an organic manner that manages to feel spontaneous while never coming across as random or haphazard.
“Slacker” was well-received upon its release and is often credited alongside Steven Soderbergh’s “sex, lies & videotape” for kickstarting the independent film movement that was such a hallmark of the ’90s, paving the way for the likes of Kevin Smith (remember when he made relevant films people cared about?) and others.
Following directly after “Slacker” would be “Dazed and Confused,” the film that would put Linklater on the map in a big way. I’ll review that next. (Although, technically, I’m cheating as I’ve already seen the film, it’s just been more than a decade since I watched it so I’ll practically be watching it for the first time, seeing it with new eyes.)
Every week, Entertainment Editor Stewart Smith brings a new entry in “Catching Up On…” an ongoing series attempting to fill in the gaps of his cinematic education.