Friday, December 09, 2005

More on Slackers

There seem to be two distinct types of slacker movie.

First, the buddy-movie (low brow slacker film). Typically, this type of slacker movie involves the travails and adventures of two friends after a McGuffin of sorts. The McGuffin is usually something particularly frivolous, which makes the slackers efforts to acquire the McGuffin that much more entertaining since they exert no effort to pursue something else that is more meaningful or productive. The characters are the slackers, but the movie itself tends to be frenetic and plot-driven. Also, drug use is usually prevalent, to amplify the aura of "slackerness" of the characters. The Cheech and Chong movies, Bill & Ted, Harold & Kumar, etc... are examples of such. Essentially, these movies are send-ups of the "road-movie," which are of course variations on the Odyssey.

Second, there are the atmospheric slacker movie (the high brow slacker film). These movies are more social in emphasis and tend to be more episodic. There is an atmosphere of lassitude and indolence. The characters have no goal. Bande a parte is an example (even though the two male characters are striving to steal money from the girl's house, most of the movie involves desultory set pieces).

I would imagine the origins from the second come from post neo-realism. Movies such as La Dolce Vita, or L'avventura, or the Leopard, obstensibly are social critiques, namely criticizing the aimless existence of the Italian upper-class. These movies also begat the French New Wave (Bande a parte capturing a similar mood, though less class conscious). Yet, the atmosphere and mood these movies convey are also crucial elements in many modern slacker comedies. The aimlessness of the Linklater films or the Gen-X films like Reality Bites, are basically variations of post neo-realism. Garden State kind of goes full circle with the main protagonist a drug induced emotional catatonic.

As an aside, you have a commingling of both genres in the Kevin Smith movies, since you have the buddy element with Jay and Silent Bob, or the two clerks, there is a sense of aimlessness. Neither buddies have any particular goals, and that is the subject matter of the film. But, the many humor of the film originates in the discourse between the buddies rather than the situation of the characters.

So, here is my thesis in an embryonic state. Older slacker movies would help to either support or contradict my ideas as listed above.

(an aside: both genres tend to be episodic in nature actually)


At 7:33 PM, Blogger Matt said...

I am too embroiled in California Dentists to give your thesis a full examination under the rule of reason, but I did want to get your opinion of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The main story is easily described by the first category (drugs, buddies, futile quests). However, there is a serious social critique present which you tend to find in the latter category of films. And, of course, it's a very episodic film.

(of course, the truth is that our categories of analysis of anticompetitive effect are less fixed than terms like "per se," "quick look," and "rule of reason" tend to make them appear. Which is to say, I hate myself and want to die.)


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