The following post was written by Ray Pawulich. Ray currently lives in Indianapolis. He went to film school for a couple years, so he thinks he knows what he’s talking about. Here’s part one of his series on Summer Nights here at the IMA.
Growing up in a relatively insulated Indianapolis suburb, many of the defining experiences of my youth were lived vicariously though film characters who came of age in the 1970s. The fact that early 90s suburban kids like myself were hungry for this kind of entertainment was not lost on the filmmakers of the day; for awhile there, it seemed all you had to do to get your movie on video store shelves was to pack it with drug references and give it a retro soundtrack. And while some of these films have endearing qualities (The Stoned Age remains a personal favorite), none can match the subtlety or artistry of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused.
It might seem pretentious to use the word ‘artistry’ to describe any movie that features Parker Posey hazing barely pubescent girls, but Linklater’s unique ability to make an almost plotless story resonate with meaning is on full display in Dazed. The film follows one day (and night) in the life of Mitch Kramer, a somewhat geeky incoming high school freshman. During the 24 hours we follow him, Mitch is introduced to a world of drinking, drugs, and girls and he learns … well, he learns nothing, except that those things are more appealing to him than listening to his mother. Yet Linklater’s observant style and realistically-drawn characters give the film a profundity lacking in, say, That 70s Show.
Indeed, despite a few dramatic contrivances, Dazed still feels like a genuine slice of life. Perhaps it’s a credit to the movie that Linklater was sued by some his high school friends over similarities between themselves and characters from the film. After all, when Matthew McConaughey’s David Wooderson declares that he loves high school girls because even as he ages, they stay the same age, you can’t help but think of someone you knew with the same attitude.
Sixteen years after its release, Dazed remains one of the finest filmic tributes to the promise of a hazy summer of fun. As our own summer winds down, the opportunity to take it in under the stars at the IMA promises to be less hazy but no less fun.