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Ravings Of A Film Fanatic: Slacker

I finally came to watch Richard Linklater’s Slacker on a dull, grey Saturday afternoon with nothing else going on in town after it was recommended to me by many of my friends and even past tutors at University. The entire film was made in 1990 for under $23,000 and shot on 16mm film. After a small cinematic release it gained a cult status and gradually gained a domestic gross just over $1,000,000.

Stripped to its bare bones, Slacker is a series of meandering conversations between caught on film. It follows many characters who are essentially separate in their own existence yet are conjoined by the eye of the camera. This series of very small and irrelevant events is all ignited by the first character we meet – played by Linklater himself – who travels into the film and, in a sense, the narrative structure on a coach from an unknown location. When picking up a taxi from the coach station he immediately begins to discuss his thoughts and feelings of his previous journey to the taxi driver:

“There was this book I just read on the bus…well you know, it was my dream so I guess I wrote it or something…The premise for this book was that every thought you have creates it’s own reality. You know like, every choice or decision you make, the thing you choose not to do fractions off and becomes it’s own reality…You know in the Wizard Of Oz? When Dorothy meets the Scarecrow and they do that little dance at the crossroads and they think about going all those directions, and they end up going in that one direction? I mean, all those other directions, just because they thought about it became separate realities - entirely different movies, but we’ll never see it because we’re kinda’ trapped in this one reality restriction”.

This initial conversation blows the ideas behind the rest of the plot wide open, and interestingly as introspective as they are, the taxi driver that Linklater is talking with is completely un-interested in his intellectual ramblings. A trait which constantly comes back into play throughout the film, exposing light on the idea that everything is based on opinion and what can be an amazing point of view to one of the characters is also the ramblings of a madman to another.

Many of the conversations within the film centre around very vast, philosophical and often left-wing anarchistic subjects such as dreams, reality, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, conspiracy, freedom and working life.

Slacker shows how completely interesting life can be, and not in a Hollywood, tall-tale, ‘Feel good film’ manner. It presents everyday life in a small town as a series of often un-connected events – people wake up, go to a newspaper stand, buy coffee, have lunch together, go to the cinema, go to bars clubs and events. Slacker doesn’t look for or create interest around these everyday occurrences, it shows it how it is. People ARE interesting, they have interesting things to say, they have stories to tell and they do interesting things.

This opening scene shows the depth of ideas present throughout the rest of the film:

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