In 1991 Richard Linklater's film 'Slacker' was realeased. With Coupland's Generation X book these were the two works which were said to represent my generation, the generation schooled in the 80s and unemployed, unmotivated and uninspired in the 90s. As a film, I didn't think much about it, but like I said, it was a sign of the times, so needs a mention, if nothing else because it gave birth to the term later used to describe us: Slacker.
Slack to the FutureBy Mark Savlov
This year (2011) marks the 20th anniversary of Richard Linklater's Slacker, the best – and maybe the most important – little arthouse film ever to come out of the Lone Star State. (On Jan. 24, the Sundance Institute and its preservation arm, the Sundance Collection, will honor the film with a special screening in Park City, Utah, of a newly struck print.) Slacker was released, officially and nationally, on July 5, 1991, by Orion Classics, after having proved its box office viability (in Austin, anyway) via a run at the now-defunct Dobie Theatre during the summer of 1990.
Filmed in and around West Campus; the Drag; a then-barely breathing, sun-bleached Downtown; and assorted other locations, Linklater's disarmingly nontraditional narrative study of the slow life in the 512 was embraced, almost overnight, as a bellwether of artistic achievement. It gently, teasingly wandered among – or, more accurately, simply trained its omniscient gaze upon – the myriad artists, students, layabouts, conspiracy jonesers, and Austin outcasts young and old before the storm that was the past two decades.
Watching Slacker now, you're struck by just how revolutionary a film it was at the time and how obviously influential it remains. Cinematographer Lee Daniel's camera doesn't so much follow the (often nameless) characters and laconic or loquacious nonevents as flow around them, the way the water at Twin Falls breaks around and reveals or highlights the semisubmerged detritus poking up into the sunlight on a shady summer day. Nothing much happens in Slacker, but – and here's the secret to the film's initial appeal and lasting impact – anything can happen. Watching Slacker from the futuristic vantage point of today, you get the distinct sensation of awesomeness in potentia. Something's coming – something big, maybe – and you can feel it in the restless, caffeine-and-alcohol-fueled dialogue that sprawls out of Captain Quackenbush's, wanders up the Drag to Les Amis, and then tools up to Mount Bonnell, where Linklater's lovely cri de coeur finally, literally, takes flight and tumbles end over end into the unknown, into the future.
Slacker as time capsule. Slacker as cultural alarm clock, forever hitting snooze one last time before Austin-then (population 465,622) yawned, stretched, woke up, devoured one last Mad Dog-and-beans-and-Shiner Bock brunch, and became Austin-now (population 1.8 million). Slacker as American independent filmmaking's closest, truest artistic parallel to Godard's equally untraditional and cinematically electrifying Breathless. You take from it what you want, what you need: inspiration, memories, a deep and abiding sense of weird. It's all there. Just try to bear in mind that "the most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten."
This article was published originally appeared in Jan 2011 in the The Austin Chronicle