Dazed and Confused Criterion Collection 4K UHD Review: School’s Out

Dazed and Confused Criterion Collection Blu Ray Disc

Dazed and Confused (1993; dir. Richard Linklater) circuits darkness: On the last day of school before the summer of 1976, some teens in a small Texas town cope with loneliness and boredom by hanging out, driving around, hazing incoming freshmen, and getting blitzed on beer and pot. These rituals create meaning for them. Part of what makes Linklater’s film great, though, is that it makes this point without pressing too hard on it. You can enjoy the movie as a sunny, stoned comedy.

Dazed conveys what it felt like to be the youth it portrays. It’s about a specific time. There’s no message here. Nor is there a crackerjack narrative with plot contrivances to spice the brew. Linklater, directing his own script, lets the film soak in the mood he conjures. Dazed is good-natured fun. Linklater doses it with a nostalgic glow that avoids both cheap sentiment and over-romanticization.

A stellar cast (Ben Affleck, Michelle Burke, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Milla Jovovich, Jason London, Matthew McConaughey, Parker Posey, Anthony Rapp, and many others) inhabit their roles. And Linklater’s compassion for each character is palpable. A hazy sense of things to come ties them. Some characters show more archetypal behavior than others (we get awkward eggheads, a constantly high pothead, and a twenty-something quasi-stud who hangs with high-schoolers and has little going on, except he’s ‘alright, alright, alright’ and cool as can be). But still. Linklater and co. breathe life into them, refuse to condescend to them.

Yes, Dazed is a hangout movie. But consider the choices it makes. Characters engage in lame and-or languid acts, and the movie doesn’t have much going on incident-wise. Yet the editing cranks things along with a music of its own. Linklater isn’t interested in telling it ‘like it was’ so much as heightening what he remembers without overselling it. Also, he doesn’t foreshadow or tease what the future holds for this ensemble. As they mouth quotable dialogue that (to me) sounds true to them, they are as they behave, and none of them are plain heroes or villains; the film exudes affection for them all. Oh, and a gnarly rock soundtrack breezes through, the stuff these kids would blast from their cars.

Like Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show (another film about small-town Texas), Dazed gets better with age. The movies complement each other. Bogdanovich’s film is starker, more quietly devastating. Dazed and Confused is a rowdier, more comic snapshot. In its unsparing look at the way teenagers experienced a certain moment, it’s no less magnificent. It’s a fun film made with authority.

What a beautiful 4K set the Criterion Collection assembled for this movie. One disc is a glorious 4K digital restoration presented in Dolby Vision HDR, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD sound. The other disc is a Blu-ray with special features: Making “Dazed” (a documentary); rare on-set interviews and behind-the-scenes footage; footage from the 10-year anniversary celebration of the movie; audition footage and deleted scenes; and a trailer. Criterion also wowed me with the booklet that accompanies the discs. It offers essays (one by Chuck Klosterman, a fave critic), reprinted recollections of the filming from cast and crew, and character profiles from the Dazed and Confused companion book, as well as the original film poster by Frank Kozik. There’s also a cool song guide to the film. If you’re a fan of Linklater’s classic, you owe it to yourself to pick up the Criterion set.

Jack Cormack

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search & Filter