Before the explosion of reality shows and the questioning whether television watching audiences had any desire for their intelligence to be respected, Bravo existed as the cultural mecca on basic cable showing independent cinema, arts programming and foreign films. I spent alot of late nights in high school steeping myself in this. In the infancy of my cultural education, the genre of consumption mattered less than the fact that the perspectives in the films and shows differed from the feeding trough of the major networks. My Private Idaho, Kieslowski, Bunuel, Cassavetes, Kids, Welcome to the Dollhouse. Almodovar films were loved long before I really got them. Bravo gave me Before Sunrise before my friends gave me Dazed and Confused.
Then there was Slacker, another Linklater work. It represented something new that I hadn’t seen in other films. The tone and topics were something foreign to a high school student who was like a sponge for learning but had more energy reserves than focus. Watching the film required patience and mindfulness to appreciate it’s contemplative meditation on post adolescence. Reviews of the film were and are polarized, some missing the point and some applauding Linklater for his vision.
Bereft of plot, one dimension of the film seems to follow this premise: the lives of normal people are interesting. The kicker is that the film essentially disproves this. It’s as slow and meandering as your life would be if someone followed you around completely unscripted. For me, the brilliance of lies in its time capsule nature and appropriate depiction of an existing pyschographic that still exists today. The film almost proves the point of why the lives of characters in HBO series continue to live on in between seasons, because in between bouts of brilliance, there’s just life, no excitement.
I almost decided to watch the film in celebration of its 20th anniversary but what stopped me was the same reason that got me to watch it in the first place. Originally, I yearned to see extraordinary lives that others lived and was instead shown the uniqueness of everyone’s life, regardless of their path, or lack of one. But mindful of the film, I’ve already had 20 years to learn that ordinary people are interesting. So instead of watching the film and again being shown through Linklater’s eyes that extraordinary part of each of our personal narratives, I’m just going to have some meaningful conversation with a friend or go experience something myself. Stopping first to write this thank you to Linklater.