A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
For any debutant director, the primary aim for the first feature is for it to make an impact. What better way to enter the weird and wonderful world of cinema than with a film that nowadays has an immense cult following, surpassed by only a select few. “Clerks.”, the first film from Kevin Smith, a comedian, director, screenwriter, actor, producer and cult favourite amongst other occupations, is a minimalistic, amateur, black and white social commentary exploring a singular day in the life of store clerk, and not much else.
Primarily based on the dull but intriguing life of Dante, an average frustrated store clerk and his video store neighbour Randal, a lazy, careless and opinionated youth, “Clerks.” is a definitive 90’s classic that epitomises not only the genre, but the style of production.
There’s a backstory that goes along with “Clerks.” which after watching it makes you appreciate the film that much more. According to many sources, the store in which the film predominantly takes place is the exact place in which Kevin Smith worked for several years. The cast consists of Smith’s close friends, and the film overall is based around Smith’s experiences. Funding for the film meant squeezing his credit card dry and painstakingly gathering up every cent to pay the measly $28,000 required to create the piece; thankfully it paid off immensely, winning multiple awards and grossing over $3 million in the U.S alone.
Shot in black and white, blending animation sequences, utilising a chapter based structure and having an ammeter cast, “Clerks.” is a convention defying and unique film in so many ways.
Essentially ninety minutes of banter and chit chat, the film relies on the stellar script almost solely. The dialogue is superb, delving into some fairly philosophical anecdotes and thought provoking ideologies regarding relationships, politics and existence in general; a pleasantly original touch that is the driving force for the narrative. This is particularly the case given the extensive use of long takes. The long and uninterrupted shots at certain angles imply a surveillance camera in many ways.
The cinematic techniques and framing, although basic and adequate in appearance initially, actually work extremely well to reinforce the sense of claustrophobia within the clerk store. It seems ironic that such a dialogue-driven film can have so much told simply through camera work and no speech at all, yet these techniques isolate Dante and infer that he is trapped in many different ways which is fantastic for character development and understanding.
Jay and Silent Bob, arguably two of the most recognisable figures in cult cinema, are brilliant supporting characters that are cut to from time to time. They add mystery, humour and a fun-factor to the piece, which is nice to see in comparison to the chaos that Dante experiences next door.
“Clerks.” as a whole is enticing, intriguing and highly entertaining, given it’s small scale, localised nature. The cast is small and seldom unprofessional, the quality is not of the highest standard and the story itself is extremely basic, however, “Clerks.” is incredibly funny, amazingly original and ever so clever in the way it tackles everything. Highly enjoyable and a highly commendable directorial debut.