View more photos in the “L-I-V-I-N: Dazed and Confused @ Hollywood Forever Cemetery” slideshow.
It took an hour to find parking somewhere in the vicinity of Hollywood Forever on Sunday night, at least half of which was spent trying to get through one intersection. Santa Monica Boulevard and Gower had turned into a mess of cars trying to enter the cemetery, people walking between traffic with beach chairs and Trader Joe's grocery bags hoisted above their heads and flannel and denim-clad folks waiting in line for that moment when Matthew McConaughey's character “Wooderson” would appear onscreen with his slick car, tight pants and porn mustache, ready to espouse wisdom. Needless to say, this Cinespia screening sold out quickly, leaving me to wonder, why did Dazed and Confused become such a cult hit?
I first saw Richard Linklater's ode to the start of summer vacation when it was released. The handful of people who were in the theater were probably there for the same reason I was, because it was a movie recommended by misfit teen magazine Sassy. At the time, the movie didn't seem retro. Yes, it took place at the start of the bicentennial summer, but the characters weren't dressed all that differently from San Fernando Valley teens in 1993 (cutoff jeans, overalls, athletic socks). Then there were the conversations — the teacher that talked about some radical time in the past, like we should feel guilty for being born too late; the feminist analysis of Gilligan's Island; the aimless drives filled with philosophical discussions where we tried to use every word that might be on the SAT.
Watching Dazed and Confused inside Hollywood Forever with more people than you would see at a nightclub on the eve of Memorial Day, there was a strong feeling of nostalgia in the air, but it wasn't for 1976. The crowd was of an age where they either saw the film inside a mostly empty suburban theater or rented it on VHS. The fashion was 1970s by way of 1993, lots of flannel, old Levis and baseball T-shirts. Then there was the moment when, in what is perhaps the best-known line of the movie, Wooderson proclaims his love of high school girls (“I get older, they stay the same age”) and the crowd hooted with laughter. Right then I thought, could Dazed and Confused be made in 2009? If so, would it have offended every letter-writing mother and moralizing talking head in the country? After all, it's a movie filled with foul-mouthed teenagers from all ranks of the high school social spectrum who smoke cigarettes and weed, drink and haze each other. The sage is an adult slacker partying with teenagers. But amidst this tableaux, Linklater asks the philosophical questions of the ages through the somewhat nerdy, red-headed girl Cynthia: “If we're all going to die anyway, shouldn't we be enjoying ourselves now?”
Wooderson, of course, has the answer, “You just gotta keep livin' man. L-I-V-I-N.”