Snapshots in the life of a drifting community.
A film that sharply divided audiences into two distinct groups: those who hailed it as a ground-breaking masterpiece, a perfect snapshot of a lost generation; and those who fell asleep, frustrated not only by its lack of anything approaching a plot but also by its refusal to let any of its myriad characters appear on screen for more than five minutes.
Opening with a young man (director Linklater) taking a taxi ride from the bus station in Austin, Texas, and rabbiting on about alternate realities, the film then latches on to a young man who calmly waits to be arrested after running down his mother in front of their house - the police summoned by Linklater. Then the cops are briefly the focus, then a young man walking from a coffee shop to his home, then a loon ranting about conspiracy theories, then some people whose flatmate has left, then a guy who wants to move into the empty room, and so on, with each character passing on to the next in a relay which straggles throughout the city.
No one ever reappears, but a portrait of the community is eventually filled in via kind of cinematic pomtillist dots, concentrating on footloose youths, more concerned with hanging out than getting on. Inevitably, the crazies stand out, but the heart of the film is in its collection of likeable drifters who just go along with the madness, hoping to get in free to a rock gig or thinking about doing something artistic. Seemingly improvised, but in fact fully scripted and tightly if unconventionally structured, this is about people you know but rarely get to see in the movies. One of a kind.
This unconventional film will offend anyone looking for a plot, but Linklater's smart observations speak volumes.
Reviewed by Kim Newman