A screening of Dazed and Confused at some point during the high school years is a rite of passage for many. More often than not, a trip to the local record store to pick up its soundtrack happens in the next few days. I never had that experience, but I don't feel any regret. If anything, I'm glad I saw it when I was older and away from that world.
In my case, I did not see the film until I was well out of college. I heard a little about it in high school; it was supposedly all about hanging out and smoking pot and it was so cool. If memory serves me correctly, none of my friends smoked pot. The classmates that did were not the kind of people I hung out with or wanted to hang out with. So why in the world would I want to see a film that's filled all these mellow pot-smokers? (That's probably the best excuse I can give you. I should also add there was never a point when a friend had a VHS copy and suggested we watch it one night. I wasn't about to go out and rent it myself.)
After finally seeing the film, I realized this wasn't all about smoking pot. More than anything, it's about hanging out and thinking about your future. That was high school for me, albeit spent mostly either on the band bus or in my room playing drums or guitar, and reading Rolling Stone and Guitar World. I look at certain aspects of those days with a lot of favor. But there are plenty of other aspects that I don't often think about that were not fun. High school didn't all-and-all out suck, but they weren't the best years of my life.
Watching the Criterion edition of the film last night, I listened to Richard Linklater's commentary and watched the 50-minute behind-the-scenes look, "Making Dazed." What is revealed on these supplements made me automatically think of Kevin Smith's Mallrats, also a Universal picture produced by Jim Jacks and Sean Daniel. If anything, both directors went through a major hazing process going from making $23-27,000 movies to $6 million films. Like Smith, Linklater doesn't really hold anything back and still sounds a little hurt by the whole experience.
Yet the really engaging stuff is when Linklater talks of how nostalgia puts on the rose-colored glasses. No, this is not some groundbreaking idea, but the way he talks about it rang true to me. He isn't overtly negative or positive about making the film just as he isn't overtly negative or positive about his high school life. He's grateful for the experience and obviously it was a major stepping stone in his film career. But he doesn't pine for the days of when he made this. These days, I figure he's too busy promoting Fast Food Nation in Europe and working on his next project.
Thinking about what he said some more, I get the feeling that nostalgia is too often used as a fire escape from the present and foreseeable future. That stuff is too hard to handle. The Fifties weren't the most innocent times; nor were any of the following decades the worst of times. I guess it's all on what you look at and draw your own conclusions. For me, I have plenty of good memories from my past, but I try not to live like they can be easily gone back to. Believe me, I've tried and it's just not the same. I don't mean that in a grim way, but I feel it's way more enjoyable to enjoy what you are today (flaws and all) instead of having a Greatest Hits-like look at your past.