A guy who says, "That's what high school is about: algebra, bad lunch and infidelity," is not likely to be touched by the pressures of duty, drive, or goals.

CLERKS

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Listen up, world: "Clerks" is a landmark movie, and you will remember you saw it in 1994. Kevin Smith, writer, producer, director, editor, and actor, is writing in a new language that represents not only the arrival of a new generation, but also a profound change in the world of movies.

Smith's "Clerks" and Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" have appeared back to back, a double-feature exemplifying the creative explosion of the video culture so many of us have misunderstood. Here, then, is the flip side of the conventional wisdom that watching too much TV dulls the mind.

Both movies are driven by dialogue born in the minds of men who have soaked up the rhythms of the video screen. Using a vocabulary of classic four-letter words not as epithets but as natural conversation, Smith and Tarantino are saying that this is the way people talk. If obscenities used to imply a kind of mental poverty, a literary laziness, they now mean comfortable, easy exchange.

Kevin Smith raised $27,000 to make a movie about two convenience-store clerks on his home turf of Leonardo, NJ, and walked away with major awards at the Cannes and Sundance film festivals. His movie chronicles, in excruciating detail, the nothingness of one day in the life of the lethargic Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran), who wakes up on his day off to discover no one is running the store.

Arriving grumpily at the Quick Stop, he steps into his daily routine and lets the world happen to him. His drifty and outrageously funny friend, Randall (Jeff Anderson), needles him relentlessly to grab control of his life. Alas, poor Dante. A guy who says, "That's what high school is about: algebra, bad lunch and infidelity," is not likely to be touched by the pressures of duty, drive, or goals.

These two spend the day laid out on the floor talking about girls, hockey, nudie booths, and nothing while selling cigarettes and coffee to anyone unlucky enough to cross their slothful paths. They comment on the passing parade of "women who check the dates looking for milk that won't go bad for a decade" and "guys who check every egg to get a perfect dozen."

If you can suspend your disbelief and surrender to the feel of the thing, you will see a very funny, gentle movie played by a group of perfect slackers.

Ten years ago, video schmoozing was a new sport. At least two of the kids transfixed by it grew up to be video clerks, absorbing B-movie dialogue while missing the picture as they waited on customers. What stayed in their heads were words, not images. Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino have absorbed the rhythms of their time, and they are going to teach them to the rest of us. They have done no less than announce the birth of a new language and a new way of making movies.


Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 498
Studio: Miramax
Rating: R 1h30m


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