It's the last day of school, 1976, and not a whole hell of a lot is going on. Teachers don't much give a damn and pay little to no attention as kids carve bongs in Wood Shop, stare at the ceiling for hours, and cut out early. Seniors take it upon themselves to immediately carry out the sacred tradition of hazing next year's fresh meat. For most this ritual is just a way to fend off boredom and initiate the new kids into high school life, but a few take sadistic pleasure in it. Other than that, the movie doesn't have much of any formal plot. The kids hang out and talk, drink too much, listen to 8-tracks, play some pinball, and stay out too late at a party. The football quarterback (Jason London) has a moral debate about whether he should sign a meaningless vow of sobriety that his coach is forcing on all the players, but it doesn't seem like the course of his life is ever in any kind of danger.
Dazed and Confused is less about story than about perfectly capturing a specific moment in time. The picture is a mood piece, observant and tonally perfect. There are no major dramas, tragic consequences, or lessons learned. It's just about a bunch of kids whose lives intersect for a while before inevitably branching off in separate directions. The movie has plenty of humor but isn't exactly a comedy. It revels in its authentic '70s flavor, but doesn't play it up for camp value. The movie is of a piece with Linklater's earlier Slacker and some of his later multi-character ensemble projects, but it's one of his least gimmicky and (despite the lack of specific plot) most focused. The cast includes a huge roster of future stars including Liv Tyler, Parker Posey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, Matthew McConaughey, Cole Hauser, Adam Goldberg, and Joey Lauren Adams. Each plays a recognizable character that everyone will remember from high school: the jocks, the stoners, the nerds, the slackers, the free spirit Hippie chicks, and the snooty rich bitches. They're all archetypes, but the movie doesn't use them schematically. This isn't The Breakfast Club; it feels like a true slice of high school life, even for those who didn't grow up in the '70s. Some experiences are universal.
The HD DVD:
HD DVD discs are only playable in a compatible HD DVD player. They will not function in a standard DVD player (except in cases like this where the disc specifically includes a secondary DVD version) or in a Blu-Ray player. Please note that the star rating scales for video and audio are relative to other High Definition disc content, not to traditional DVD.
The movie doesn't have a very flashy photographic style, but the disc is mastered from clean source elements with strong colors and rich black levels. The picture is a little soft, but has a fair sense of detail and depth. The mildly grainy photography has been well-compressed and doesn't look too noisy. A small amount of edge enhancement ringing is visible in some scenes. Fortunately, it's very minor and generally not distracting. The disc probably won't be used as High-Def demo material, but it does adequately capture the intended style of the movie.
Some fans have compared the HD DVD (and the previous Flashback Edition DVD from Universal) to the Criterion Collection DVD and found the two transfers framed differently. Apparently, Universal's transfer is centered a little high in the frame with a bit of extra headroom while Criterion's is centered a little lower. Which one is correct is still up for debate. Watching the HD DVD on its own, I didn't notice any shots that stood out as poorly composed, so this is likely an issue that will only bother those directly comparing both discs.
The Dazed and Confused HD DVD is not flagged with an Image Constraint Token and will play in full High Definition quality over an HD DVD player's analog Component Video outputs.
The photo images used in this article were taken from the DVD edition for illustrative purposes only, and are not intended to demonstrate HD DVD picture quality.
The DVD side of the disc has a DTS soundtrack option. Any difference between the two tracks is negligible, and certainly not worth watching the movie downgraded to Standard Definition video.
Subs & Dubs: