U.S.A.| 1991. Colour. 97 mins.

Linklater’s delightfully different and immensely enjoyable early feature takes us on a 24-hour tour of the flaky dropout culture of Austin, Texas. It doesn’t have a continuous plot, but it’s brimming with weird characters and wonderful talk (which often seems improvised, though it’s all scripted by Linklater, apparently with the input of some of the participants). The structure of dovetailing dialogues call to mind an extremely laid-back variation on Luis Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty or Jacques Tati’s Playtime. ‘Every thought you have fractions off and becomes its own reality,’ remarks Linklater himself to a poker-faced cabdriver in the first (and in some ways funniest) scene, and the remainder of the movie amply illustrates this notion with its diverse paranoid conspiracy and assassination theorists, serial-killer buffs, musicians, cultists, college students, pontificators, petty criminals, street people and layabouts (around 90 in all). Even if the movie goes nowhere in terms of narrative and winds up with a somewhat arch conclusion, the highly evocative scenes give an often hilarious sense of the surviving dregs of ’60s culture and a superbly realised sense of a specific community.

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