Thursday, May 26, 2016

Directorial Debut: Kevin Smith's CLERKS

Welcome to a new installment of DIRECTORIAL DEBUTS, where we look at some of the best, most interesting, and iconic directors and the films that started their careers. This week we take a look at the indie legend Kevin Smith's first film...CLERKS.

A director's first film often sets the precedent for the rest of their career. This is true for Kevin Smith's Clerks. In 1994, he wrote and directed this black and white comedy on a limited budget of $27,000. It was filmed in the very store where Smith was employed in New Jersey, which was a smart move monetarily.

The plot centers around, Dante Hicks, a convenience store clerk who has to come to work on his day off. His friend Randal Graves, a video store clerk, adds to the chaos.  Brian O'Holloran plays the lovable Dante, while Jeff Anderson plays the irreverent Randal. Both characters are underpaid and have no luck with the opposite sex, which makes for some very funny moments.  Each role was cast extremely well and their performances were great.

In the film, Dante is upset to find out that his ex-girlfriend, Caitlin, is now engaged to an "Asian studies major".  We discover she's having cold feet and tries to rekindle things with Dante, but thing go awry for her when she winds up, unknowingly, having sex with a corpse in the convenient store bathroom, thinking it was Dante, an event that occurs completely off screen. This is just one of the many crazy things that take place over the course of one day at the Quick Stop/RST Video stores.

Clerks also introduced us to the charming stoner duo, Jay and Silent Bob, played by Jason Mewes and director Kevin Smith, respectively. Although they spend most of their time selling weed and cracking jokes outside of the stores, they are a stand out part of this film. These characters have even gone on to appear in several of Smith's later films, including Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Clerks 2, and have even starred in their own feature film, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Clerks, though containing no violence or nudity, was originally rated NC-17 by the MPAA based on its crass language, but after filing an appeal, they changed it to an R-rating. This film definitely influenced Smith's later films as he created one of the first cinematic universes, placing six of his current films (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks 2) and two of his upcoming films (Clerks 3 and Mallrats 2) all within the same world.  Mallrats, which was released the following year, even directly references things that lead into Clerks, as it takes place the day before the events of Clerks.

I've seen most of Kevin Smith's films and Clerks is among my top three. Many people relate to this film and the characters within as most of us, at one time or another, have hated our jobs and/or been dumped. I love Clerks because it accurately displayed what it's like to be young and broke. This film has an authenticity and heart that many big budget films lack.

Kevin Smith is one of the most underrated directors/actors I've come across. He doesn't get nearly the credit he deserves.  The importance of Clerks for any young filmmaker is that even with a small budget you can still make a great movie.

Lisa's Score: 9/10

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