Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused ★★★★½

Almost Famous has an even bigger debt to this than this does to American Graffiti. So ensemble, so dispersed, there's no narrational voice per se, no center of action. Closeups on individuals are relatively rare and those shots are held only briefly, ensuring we identify less with a single character than with a cast and a world and a moment in time. Even the closing credits reflect this, with a somewhat strange ordering of names, clearly due to a reason other than actual screen time. I love that trick (can't remember where I first saw it...Godard?) when non-diegetic music reveals itself to be diegetic. So many of the scene changes here are marked by a new song and establishing shot. Then once we move into the space of, usually, a car, there's the opportunity for a character to turn down the radio from which the soundtrack "originates." The film is striking, too, for its untroubled celebration of driving around drinking and doing (light) drugs. As MADD was gaining a real social voice around the time this movie came out, I wonder if there was outcry. One shouldn't need to defend the film from a charge of insouciance over the dangers of substance abuse, but the urge to do so gets in your head even while basking in the pleasures of a film like this. Regardless, this is really killer filmmaking, replete with the delights of tracking shots that are slightly bumpy without being "shaky." This is nearly gone in moving images these days, with films being obliged to embrace the smooth or the choppy aesthetic. Yes, the bumpiness is essentially the stylistic trace of an historical artifact—not something done "intentionally" but a result of the technology of the period—but for a film fundamentally *about* nostalgia and history and ---philias, it feels appropriate to love Dazed and Confused for this reason, among so many others.