Waking Life

Richard Linklater

9/10 (main character annoying)

This is a must-see for a wide variety of filmgoers: fans of avant-garde non-traditional movies, of mystical, metaphysical and philosophical ponderings, of interesting visual stylings like those of Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Science of Sleep,” “Be Kind Rewind“), or perhaps simply those who like Linklater himself (“Dazed and Confused,” “Slackers,” “A Scanner Darkly”).

First, a brief description: Wiley Wiggins (from “Dazed and Confused”) plays the protagonist, a youth who wakes up the day after returning to his hometown from college and can’t figure out if he’s still dreaming or not. The movie follows him (and occasionally detours to other random characters) as he meets different people and engages in philosophical, metaphysical and political discussions with them. It is episodic in the same sense of “Slackers,” but goes way further off the deep end. Other actors/celebrities with brief roles include Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Steven Soderbergh, Adam Goldberg, Louis Black, and Linklater himself. The movie was shot in live action but later painted over to give a dreamy, trippy animation effect. It is well worth seeing for the visuals alone.

I have seen this a few times and would love to see it more. Its episodic nature means that you can sit down and switch to a segment at random and have your mind blown in a completely unique way for ten minutes or so. Or you can watch it all in one sitting and have no idea what’s going on. I recommend making ample use of the pause button between particularly brain-scattering scenes in order to discuss.

Even if you don’t give a shit about philosphy or “deep” musings, the visuals alone are worth wasting 100 minutes on. I imagine that young children would even be entertained watching the conversationalist’s face begin to slowly distort and melt away, or some other crazy effect.

The only thing that really bothered me about the film is the main character himself. For lack of decent acting skills, he resorts to covering his face or running his hands through his hair in order to convey his exasperation. He does this about 20 times during the film.

Bottom line though is that it’s a completely unique film experience, and worthwhile on many different levels. If you’re interested in the subject matter it’s even that much more essential. See it! It could quite probably blow your mind.

16 April 2010

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