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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.33:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Three audio commentaries, featuring Linklater and members of the cast and crew
  • It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books (1988), Linklater's first full-length feature, with commentary by the director
  • Woodshock, a 1985 16 mm short by Linklater and Daniel
  • Casting tapes featuring select "auditions" from the more-than-100-member cast
  • Deleted scenes and alternate takes
  • Footage from the Slacker tenth-anniversary reunion
  • Early film treatment
  • Home movies
  • Ten-minute trailer for a 2005 documentary about the landmark Austin cafť Les Amis
  • Original theatrical trailer

Slacker

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Richard Linklater
1991 | 100 Minutes | Licensor: Detour Filmproduction

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #247
RLJ Entertainment

Release Date: September 17, 2013
Review Date: September 2, 2013

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amazon.com  amazon.ca

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SYNOPSIS

Slacker, directed by Richard Linklater, presents a day in the life of a loose-knit Austin, Texas, subculture populated by eccentric and overeducated young people. Shooting on 16 mm for a mere $3,000, writer-producer-director Linklater and his crew of friends threw out any idea of a traditional plot, choosing instead to create a tapestry of over a hundred characters, each as compelling as the last. Slacker is a prescient look at an emerging generation of aggressive nonparticipants, and one of the key films of the American independent film movement of the 1990s.

Forum members rate this film 4.5/10

 

Discuss the film and Blu-ray here   


PICTURE

Richard Linklaterís Slacker comes to Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on a dual-layer disc. The high-definition transfer is presented in 1080p/24hz.

Slacker doesnít seem like an obvious candidate to receive a Blu-ray upgrade yet here it is and does it ever look good, almost too good. It appears the exact same high-definition transfer used for Criterionís impressive 2-disc DVD has been used here and though that may be a bit of a disappointment to some it has held up incredibly well all these years later. Save for the last few minutes the film was primarily shot on 16mm around 24 years ago, and on a ridiculously low budget to boot. Yet none of that shows through here in terms of image quality. The picture is sharp with clear edges and striking details at times. Colours pop, looking vivid and gorgeously saturated, everything from yellows to reds to blues. The colours actually look cleaner and more natural in comparison to the DVDís, which now look a little muddy.

The film is of course very grainy and save for a few short sequences where it can look digitized (a couple of darker scenes particularly closer to the end) the grain has been rendered in a clean and natural manner: it does look like a projected 16mm film. There is a lot of material jammed on this disc, and I donít think a two-disc release would have been entirely out of the question, but other than the previously mentioned sequences where the film grain looks digitized, there weren't any large issues with the transfer, at least in motion on screen.

Thereís still very little print damage here, and itís limited mostly to a few minor marks. In comparison to the DVD itís certainly sharper with better colours and a cleaner rendering of the film grain. Overall itís a very pleasant looking image and for me was a fairly big surprise.

8/10

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AUDIO

The film delivers a rather simple 2.0-channel DTS-HD MA surround track, which is primarily limited to the fronts. Sound does spread out on occasion but itís very faint and didnít register with me much. The track is generally clean but I feel there are some limitations because of the cheap nature of the production. Dialogue is mostly clear but lacks fidelity. There are also some moments where distortion is present, but it doesnít sound like damage to the source materials but rather a side effect from shooting. It doesnít sound terrible but the low budget nature of the production is more obvious here.

6/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Most of the material found on the two-disc DVD edition has made it over, starting with three audio commentaries.

The first one is an audio commentary by Richard Linklater and it's a nice track, though I prefer another he does on this release with other members of his crew. Here he talks mostly about the cast (who are all musicians, which doesn't really surprise me,) writing the film and gets into a lot of detail about the actual shooting, which includes a lot of anecdotes, most of which are amusing. Itís a nice track offering a lot of detail about low budget filmmaking.

The second commentary track is the cast commentary, which features various members of the cast. This is probably the least interesting of the three commentaries as it comes off too sporadic with little focus. Each member really only talks during the sequence they're in, offering anecdotes, thoughts about the scene, or just deliver general info about the movie. Some are excellent speakers and some aren't so you may catch yourself skipping or using that wonderful commentary index Criterion offers to skip to sequences that may come off more interesting (admittedly I did.)

The third commentary track is more interesting than the last one. Called the crew Commentary it features Linklater yet again, DOP Lee Daniel, and co-producer Clark Walker. This one is more technical than the Linklater commentary, going into detail about equipment and budget and the like (as well as how scenes were set up,) but it also talks a lot about the enjoyment, heartache, and frustration of making an independent film, and it may be the most passionate track on here. Of the three it is easily my favourite. If you only find yourself listening to one of the tracks I would direct you towards this one.

Moving on to the rest of the supplements we first get No Longer/Not Yet. The feature (the name of which was the original title for Slacker) is the original script written by Linklater. Well, it's not really a script, but more of a breakdown of each scene describing what's happening. There's only 45 pages or so, and it's a lot different from the finished product, with only a few scenes matching exactly and some matching in only a small way. Itís presented as a gallery that you navigate through using your remote.

Showing Life is footage of cast auditions. The text notes points out that most of those who were cast had little to no acting experience, which is painfully obvious frequently in the film. There is a 4 page intro by casting director Anne Walker-McBay (found under the sub section ďThe Casting of Slacker), who talks about the process of casting for the film. There's then about 15-minutes of footage here under ďCast InterviewsĒ where most everyone is just required to talk a bit about themselves. I'm assuming from here they tried to match the personalities of each person with a character from the script.

Exactly 12-minutes of home video footage can be found under Taco-And-A-Half After 10. The material, shot on video, is in fairly rough shape but it presents an interesting look at the indie film process, and shows Linklaterís sort of laid back approach to filmmaking. It captures various members of the cast and crew, showing them setting things up. Some of it is hard to hear in spots but overall it's a nice little feature worth looking at.

Ain't No Film in That Shit (which I believe comes from a statement someone made to Linklater about Slacker, and is also a line in the film) is 28-minutes of deleted footage or alternate footage. Itís all interesting to see but I canít say any of it was really missed as a lot of it would have padded out the film too much. Admittedly, though, some of these sequences probably offered smoother transitions between characters. Not carried over from the DVD Or you can even select "Roadmap", which presented the script for the scene that would play afterwards if it was available. Iím not sure why it has not been included here.

Smacked midway on the list of features is the filmís theatrical trailer put together by Orion (way back in the day!)

Continuing on we next get ĒÖEnd of Interview!Ē, which presents a glimpse at the 10th Anniversary screening of Slacker in Austin, Texas in 2001. This screening also seems to have worked as a reunion for the cast and crew. It gets interviews with the various members of the cast and crew, and also gets some bits from a Q&A. Running about 20-minutes it's a nice extra that catches up on everyone (or at least catches up with them back in 2001.)

Viva Les Amis is an odd little feature, a 10-minute trailer for a film by Nancy Higgins, that is about a coffee shop in Austin called Les Amis (of course,) which was used for some scenes in Slacker. It talks briefly about the restaurant's history, the people that visit and its use in Slacker. Not surprisingly it appears the cafe is now a Starbucks. Though ultimately just a trailer it does have some great interviews and archival footage.

Next we find Woodshock, a 7-minute short film that chronicles a music festival called "Woodshock" naturally. Shot in 1985 (and feeling like it) it's an interesting piece that shows Linklater's skills very early on. In the text intro it states how Linklater and his director of photography Lee Daniel were going for the feel of a 60's psychedelic film and they definitely succeed. An interesting and actually entertaining little feature.

And finally you will find Linklater's very first full-length film, running 85-minutes and made in 1988, called It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books. Previously available on the DVD itís still an interesting inclusion but itís not one Iím really going to view a third time (it makes Slacker come off as a Bruckheimer spectacle.) It's almost a precursor to Slacker but instead of following the daily routines of many characters it really only follows one, played by Linklater, who plays a college student who simply "does stuff." The film follows him around as he walks about, sits around at his place or a friendís, or visits family. There isn't much talking in the film, and some scenes are dragged out well past their welcome but there is a charm to it, probably mostly rooted in its low-budget qualities. As well, the fact that you can tell Linklater is having fun making the film helps, even though he's concentrating on the less interesting aspects of a college student's life (or life in general.) The upscaled standard-definition transfer is pretty decent and the source is in excellent shape considering it was shot on 8mm for $3000, presenting as nice a picture as you could probably get. On the other hand sound quality is sort of bad at times (when there is dialogue it can be almost impossible to hear, and unfortunately subtitles, which were available on the DVD, have been removed from here.) Still, it looks as though Criterion put more effort than probably required into it. It runs about 86-minutes.

But Criterion doesn't stop there. They have also recorded a commentary with Linklater as he remembers back to his first film. It's yet again a very nice commentary and Linklater still has a lot to talk about, even though he recorded two other commentaries for this release. He also gets more into how he got into film and filmmaking and how he learned about film (simply sitting in on classes), as well as acting in film. It's a good commentary track worth listening to. In fact Iíd say if you have no interest in watching the film at least listen to this track. Itís very entertaining and yet another wonderful look into low-budget independent filmmaking.

Unfortunately some more text/gallery material didnít make it over from the DVD. The DVD presented an extensive number of text notes about ďThe Austin Film SocietyĒ, covering its history and location, as well as offering samples of posters and fliers for screenings there. Also missing are text notes presenting an essay on ďSlacker CultureĒ by Linklater. The fact these two things, which were actually both great inclusions, are not here in any form (not even in the booklet) is very disappointing.

At the very least Criterion has still released this title in a digipak, allowing for the same extensive booklet to be included. I tried my best to compare between the DVDís booklet and the Blu-rayís booklet. Other than some differences in placement of material the booklets do look identical between one another. Some of the essays included: An essay by John Pierson covers the filmís production and then various screenings and pick up by Orion; a reprint of a 2001 article by Ron Rosenbaum on the film; a 1990 article on the film by Chris Walters; former Orion Classics head Michael Barker reflects back on the filmís release; a couple excerpts from Linklaterís notebook for the film; and then finally a short piece by director Monte Hellman on Itís Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books. Youíll also find various other things, including a letter for requesting funds for the film, a collection of samples of letters from collection agencies looking for their money (Linklater of course maxed out credit cards to make the film,) and other little nick nacks and collages. Itís still a wonderful little booklet.

There is some missing material unfortunately but most of it made it on here and itís still incredibly extensive and entertaining. The fact that some material is missing is a little aggravating but itís still one of Criterionís most impressive releases.

9/10

CLOSING

The supplements are still fascinating, making this one of Criterionís most impressive special editions. The new transfer looks surprisingly great, the film looking the best I could ever imagine it to look. For fans this new Blu-ray comes with a very high recommendation.


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