If you are ever too light-headed and confused to understand the plot of Dazed and confused, then the lesser known film by Richard Linklater, Looser (1991), is the next stop you should make. While it doesn’t necessarily fit within the confines of the stoner movie (if there are any at all) (nobody smokes weed on the screen), it feels like it was made for those nights when it’s hard to be long on one particular one Focus plot. Its floating, unbound form lulls the (potentially drunk) viewer into a low-stakes state of conversation that can easily be discussed for ten minutes and then re-entered without confusion. That might seem like a review – and it would be for many films – but for Looser, this state of wanton apathy in relation to action and character development is precisely calculated.
Looser does not contain a narrative in the traditional sense (you could even call it anti-narrative) and does not have much aesthetic sensibility. There are two types of shots in this film: either the camera is completely stationary while a character tells from the Smurfs to the JFK assassination, or the camera follows the movements of the characters as they move from one place to another. The latter technique helps Looser‘s stick: The focus of the film changes from subject to subject almost every time there is more than one character on the screen. There is no cohesion; there is no “plot”; but there are wonderfully entertaining and surprising sections on every corner.
The first character we hang out with – played by Richard Linklater himself – is perhaps the only diegetic clue as to what Looser is about (when it is straight) over something). The camera shows him driving in and out of a bus and then getting into a taxi. Inside the taxi, Linklater’s character speaks to the driver for three full minutes in a continuous, stationary shot about a dream he recently had – a special kind of dream he has “every two years or so” – in which everything is ” very real ”and alive. He describes how, in that dream he had on the bus, he read a book in which “every choice or decision you make – the thing you choose” Not Doing fractions and becoming his own reality. ”He verbally explores this idea for a few minutes (it is not clear whether the taxi driver can even hear him: he is absolutely unresponsive) and speculates that maybe if he does Had stayed at the bus station instead of taking a taxi, met a beautiful woman and went back to her apartment. (This character is aptly referred to as “Should Have Stayed at the Bus Station”.)
At the start of the running time, it’s not obvious that this character’s philosophizing has anything to do with the film itself, but when the camera gaze wanders from person to person, the audience preoccupied with what the films are about can become clearer To think about the ideas laid out in Looserthe first moments. After Linklater’s character gets out of the taxi, he walks down the street and sees a woman being hit by a car. A few people gather around their bodies trying to figure out what to do, and the camera zooms out until the guilty driver parks his car a block away from the crime scene. The “hit and run son” (it turns out the driver’s victim was his mother) goes into a house and begins vaguely ritualistic acts until the police show up and he is arrested. The camera then moves to follow some people walking down the street discussing the crime. The “storylines” in this film are broadly focused on cause and effect and show how tiny actions can make big changes. But in contrast to the scenario described in the dream book Looser never asks, “What if things happened differently?”
Fortunately, there are plenty of non-diegetic clues that can help with deciphering Looser – namely Linklater’s 2001 feature 2001 Awakening life (a much denser film). Awakening life is nowhere near as drunk friendly as Looser (unless you’re feeling particularly pensive) but it can be seen as sort of a spiritual continuation of Linklater’s more relaxed feature. Both films often change perspective; but where LooserThe timeline of is perfectly linear, Awakening life adheres to the dream logic: the focus is on one figure, but his “story” is constantly jumping around in time and space. And where LooserDialogue is easy to follow, usually about the politics and conspiracy theories of the outcasts of the 90s, Awakening life revolves around the exhilarating conversations one can encounter in philosophy class, such as existentialism, personal responsibility, and universal awareness. While the two films differ structurally and sonically, the themes that are discussed in Awakening life – Individuality vs. community, dream world, free will – to be observed less explicitly in Looser.
One of the opening recordings in Awakening life is similar to the first shot of Looser: A young man (referred to as the “main character”, played by Wiley Wiggins) with shoulder-length hair looks out the window of a bus. When he got out, instead of taking a taxi, he tried to call a friend for a lift, but got no answer. He sees a beautiful woman sitting at the train station, but does not speak to her. He is taken away by a stranger in a boat cart. If the main character can’t decide where to get off, the passenger next to him says, “Drive three more streets, turn right, go two blocks, drop this guy on the next corner.” When the main character asks Where that is, the driver says: “I don’t know either, but it’s somewhere and will determine the further course of your life.” This scene is a clear parallel to the opening of Loosera man getting out of a bus aimlessly; But more importantly, it indicates the concept that exists at the center of Looser: Seemingly meaningless actions change not only the life of the subject, but the life of everyone else in the world.
The parallel continues: almost immediately after getting out of the car that picks him up at the bus station, the main character of Awakening life goes into an intersection and finds a piece of paper on the floor that says, “Look to the right”. A speeding car is parked to his right. In the next scene, the main character wakes up, suggesting that the rest of the film could just be his dream moments before death. The main character spends the next 90 minutes flying around town listening to strangers talking. This form is eerily similar to that Looser bounces around from person to person right after the first character hits a hit. Linklater’s character complicates this parallel in the opening scene when he says of his vivid dreams every year: “Something strange always happens … it’s like someone is always run over, something really strange.” Looser, not how Awakening lifeHe doesn’t have a single consciousness that guides the film’s explorations through human interactions, but the similarity is striking nonetheless: through the world of dreams one gains access to universal consciousness.
These types of analysis can feel like an effort once you’ve seen Looser (It’s essentially an innovative take on a stoner film), but with a side-by-side view Awakening life shows compelling parallels like the ones above that are fun to play around with. Of course this is not absolutely necessary. Countless possibilities for different interpretations and visual experiences are part of what Looser so magical: take it apart and put it back together or enjoy it with a beer (or three) and a group of friends. Whichever way you look at it, you won’t regret revisiting this masterpiece for its 30th anniversary.
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