August 12, 2020

Short Take: Waking Life

posted on: Thursday November 8, 2001

by Mark Balas

Movie info:
Waking Life
Directed by Richard Linklater
Avon Cinema

Waking Life, the astonishing new film by Slacker auteur Richard Linklater, is a movie about nothing. It’s also about everything. Shot on digital video in live action, then meticulously animated over by Bob Sabiston’s animation team, Waking Life is more visually stunning than Shrek or Final Fantasy, simply because the animation captures true, idiosyncratic human motion. The constantly undulating, hallucinatory, beautiful animation serves as a backdrop for the endless dream of an unnamed young man, played by Wiley Wiggins. Wiggins floats from dream character to dream character, discussing, but mostly listening to eloquent soliloquies concerning the state of the modern mind. The film, which starts when Wiggins, as a young boy, picks the “cootie catcher” triangle that says “dream is destiny,” is plotless, taking a cue from early Truffaut and Godard, deeiming plot useless in the face of issue. Wiggins, who mostly reacts silently to who he encounters, talks to University of Texas professors about existentialism, takes a ride from a man whose convertible looks like a motorboat, gets hit by a car, rides with a sociopath shouting his philosophies through his car’s PA system, hears a chunk of new conversation about soul from the all-nighter Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy pulled in Before Sunrise, oversees a coffeehouse conversation about God-in-the-moment, and hears a chilling Phillip K. Dick anecdote from a barfly, played by Linklater himself. The film is broken into approximately 30-40 such episodes, held together by Wiggins’ presence that are sometimes laborious, but mostly fascinating.GRADE: A

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