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July 16, 2016

Clerks (1994)
Director: Kevin Smith
Actors: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes

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Synopsis: Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) wile away their day as small-town grocery and video store clerks respectively.

Review: The reason this sublime debut film from Kevin Smith was so successful in launching his career, and is still such a treat to watch over twenty years later, is through its ingenious snapshot of small-town Americana and the inertia of Generation Xers.

Smith’s style and modus operandi is vaguely similar to Quentin Tarantino’s, except Smith’s is much more irreverent, homespun and “slacker” in tone. Although Smith has gone on to openly confess he’s not much of a visual director (he claims he just writes and points the camera at the action), the decision to shoot Clerks in black-and-white was such a clever move: the monochrome crystallising the banal world of the convenience store and small town perfectly. Smith also finds a gallows visual grammar (there are lots of sight gags) to go with the dialogue-heavy action – especially effective is an exquisite scene when Jay starts dancing vigorously to the sounds of his ghetto-blaster before Silent Bob (up until this point completely mute and impassive) joins him in the throwing of some wild shapes outside the convenience store.

Like with Tarantino though, the characters’ one-remove-from-reality, pop-culturally articulate dialogue is Smith’s pièce de resistance. It’s almost like a play, a situational comedy – a Walgreen or 7-Eleven version of “Waiting for Godot”. It’s an unlikely classic when some of the best scenes feature an old guy going for a cr*p but worrying about his hemorrhoids or when the girlfriend sleeps with a corpse that just happens to have a post-mortem erection! A little American classic it is though, and in the character of Jay, Smith has crafted a character who has done the near impossible – turn the profane into the poetic! (July 2016)

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