Home History [Cinema Sunday] “Clerks” – Kevin Smith’s First Film

[Cinema Sunday] “Clerks” – Kevin Smith’s First Film

by Joshua Winchester
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“I’m not even supposed to be here today!” – Dante Hicks

Hello and welcome to another round of Cinema Sunday. As you may have noticed, today is a departure from the normal meal of 80’s sci-fi masterpieces, to bring musings on another film and, more importantly, a man who is a truly great and genius director, screenwriter, and actor.

Several days ago, on August 2nd, Kevin Smith turned a whopping 48 years old. And this is a huge deal because several months ago, the world and nerd communities nearly lost this colossus of a creator to the most serious of heart attacks out there, the Widow Maker.

But by the grace of all that is good, he pulled through, got back on the horse, and has now turned his life in the direction of healthy living in order to remain on this Earth many more years.

Now it’s time to dive in and yap about this mega-man’s first (and to many arguably, best) flick. Time to head back in time to the 90’s and the movie that started it all. Winner of the “Award of the Youth” and the “Mercedes-Benz Award” at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, tied with Fresh for the “Filmmakers Trophy” at the Sundance Film Festival. That’s right, it’s the Cinema Sunday Clerks edition!

Clerks, to many people, may seem like a simple story. Two friends working in “dead-end jobs,” wasting the day talking about everything from contractors working on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi to being assaulted with cigarettes by customers who get riled by gum company reps.

Of course many good people know the main players, Dante (Brian O’Halloran), Randall (Jeff Anderson), Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti), Caitlin (Lisa Spoonauer), and of course, the mac-daddies of New Jersey, Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). Dante and Randall, they’re complex guys underneath it all. The movie is rife with conversations that can seem both low-brow, and at-times downright deep. That is why it succeeded so well back then and does still today. Because of it being about two ordinary guys, going through an “ordinary” day (because what day is ever ordinary in retail), making it to closing.

As for Jay and Silent Bob, well, what else can be said about them. Two guys hanging out, selling marijuana to passers-by, and generally just being there. And yet when it comes down to it all, they provide the most profound wisdom in the entire movie (next to Randall’s rant/speech near the end of the picture). And of course, the greatest wisdom comes from Silent Bob himself, choosing to speak at just the right time.

Kevin on-set behind the camera (from the ViewAskew website)

One of the truly amazing things about Clerks isn’t just its story or fun cast. It’s the how, the film’s origin. Not only was it shot in a very short amount of time (21 days with two “pick up” days), but it was also shot on-location at the very store Kevin was working back then.

Not to mention his selling a portion of his comic book collection, maxing out credit cards, dipping into his college fund, and using insurance money to fund the project. That, right there, is true dedication to making a dream reality and for that alone, Kevin should keep receiving overwhelming praise.

Now to give all Kevin Smith fans something truly wonderful to enjoy, here’s a look at the hour-long documentary “The Making of Clerks”. Snootchie bootchies everyone!

The biggest surprise at the time is how well the movie did in theaters, despite being screened at only 50 locations across the United States. It raked in over $3 million against a budget of $27,575.

Plus Roger Ebert’s heart-warming review that came out in November of 1994:

Quentin Tarantino has become famous as a video store clerk who watched all the movies in his store, and then went out and directed “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.” Kevin Smith has done him one better, by working behind the counter and then making a movie about the store itself. Within the limitations of his bare-bones production, Smith shows great invention, a natural feel for human comedy, and a knack for writing weird, sometimes brilliant, dialogue.

Much has been written about Generation X and the films about it.

“Clerks” is so utterly authentic that its heroes have never heard of their generation. When they think of “X,” it’s on the way to the video store.

On that basis alone, from Ebert himself, is another firm reason why Kevin Smith is revered and heralded to this day. [Editor’s note: Hockey on the rooftop!]

It’s Sunday. It’s either a gorgeous day or crummy day weather-wise wherever you are. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “I could go blow money on the latest big screen thriller, but I’d rather just stay home”. Well, if you do choose to do that, then take a hearty recommendation from your friendly Cinema Sunday movie person. Kick back, relax, and watch Clerks. It’s rated R, so parents, don’t let your kids or young teens see it. Parents, if you’ve got 18 or older, make extra popcorn. That extra popcorn is going to be needed when you laugh and laugh some more at Kevin Smith’s first feature length film. Snootchie bootchies, y’all.

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