Richard Linklater: Slacker

Slacker is a 1990 American independent comedy-drama film written, produced, and directed by Richard Linklater, who also appears in the film. Slacker was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize - Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival in 1991.

By Balthazar Malevolent

Richard Linklater: Slacker

Linklater's Slacker (1991) is an intellectual fresco in the spirit of Ulysses by James Joyce. It is an anti-history without a central figure and thus broken up into numerous micro-plots which are sometimes almost impossible to link with each other. The pre-determined time and place of action create this formally avant-garde foundation.

The viewer is forced to relive a summer day of 1989 among the unemployed residents of Austin, Texas. Different faces, characters, fates will flash before the camera slowly drifting along the dusty streets, but none of them will linger on for more than a couple of minutes. Here a random passer-by has the chance to take over the baton from the previous character who had previously just recounted yet another conspiracy theory, an elaborate patchwork of media clutter from television, the press and consumer goods books.

Tramps, Marxist communists, punk musicians, motorists, city madmen, feminist artists, students - the transition from one group of characters to the next occurs smoothly, without splicing, thus forming a single compositional canvas, the interpretation of which is not as important. A condition of collision of these or other frames and images, as in the classic montage films of the Soviet avant-garde. Linklater's aim is different - to provoke the viewer's analytical engagement with completely incoherent shots, thereby relieving himself of the ideological responsibility that implies a clear selection of material from the totality of objects and phenomena that condition the appearance of the particular image on the screen.

This postmodernist detachment of the author from his work is amusingly played out in the very first scene of the film, when the director appears as one of the characters. He literally retells the overall artistic conception of his film to a silent driver after getting into a taxi. Despite this, Linklater and his characters live in the strictly defined historical and cultural context of the United States of the second half of the twentieth century.

Linklater himself takes no position in this ideological struggle, although he does flirt with the ideas of the socially engaged student left. His tactic is to forge his own individual creative path, walking a razor's edge between documenting the era and the style of the postmodern project. His sympathies are entirely on the side of the creative minority. The slackers with their cameras subjugate reality by capturing it on video and manipulating it, bringing the moving image to its impressionist nature - pure color. The cultural freedom they reclaimed in the 1960s seems to Linklater more important than any other economic or political claim. For him, art is a true celebration of life.

Richard Linklater - Slacker
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