Waking Life * * * * 1/2

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Director: Richard Linklater.
Screenplay: Richard Linklater.
Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, Nicky Katt, David Sosa, Alex Jones, Otto Hofmann, Lorelei Linklater, Richard Linklater.

Richard Linklater has always been an interesting director; he’s ranged from his debut independant hit “Slacker” to refreshing 70’s nostalgia in “Dazed and Confused”, through anti-corporate polemic “Fast Food Nation” and cult sci-fi “A Scanner Darkly”. He’s effortless in his range and always involving, but none more so than this unsung gem.

A young man (Wiley Wiggins) walks through life as if in a dream. He talks to a variety of people about the meaning of life and the purpose of the universe, striving for answers as to his direction and his place in the cosmos.

Waking Life is the type of film that’s hard to put into words. The striking visuals are most certainly noteworthy and Linklater’s exploration of the bigger questions in life will only appeal to those who invest and bring something to the film themselves. It has many insightful philosophical ramblings and monologues on the nature of our existence; the purpose of our being; the difference between our dream state and waking life; whether dreams can be controlled and how much they have to tell us.
Using an animation technique called ‘rotoscoping’ – which he later used to equally excellent effect in “A Scanner Darkly” – Linklater works with a medium that allows him to fully explore his ideas and theories in capturing a perfect representation of the dream world and has crafted a highly innovative and wonderfully surreal piece of work. Throughout the journey he discusses essays by paranoid science-fiction writer and philospher Philip K. Dick to lucid dreaming and poses deeply involving existential questions. These questions are never answered fully, teasing us to get involved in the process, question ourselves and become part of the protagonists hallucinogenic, dreamlike trip.

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A very intriguing and visually inventive film that isn’t afraid to wear it’s philosophical heart on it’s sleeve. Rarely are such movies delivered where they appeal to both the eye and the head. An existential treat.

Mark Walker

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30 Responses to “Waking Life * * * * 1/2”

  1. Hmmmm, never heard of this….

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    • I was wondering if I should have referred to it as an “unsung gem”. Turns out I was right. More people need to check this out. It’s an outstanding, thought provoking little film that definitely one of Linklater’s best.

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  2. Nice review. I’m a big fan of Linklater but haven’t seen this one. I’ll have to check it out.

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    • Thanks man! I too love Linklater’s stuff and I’d say this is my second favourite after Dazed And Confused. I rate it that highly. A Scanner Darkly comes in at a close third.

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  3. “An existential treat.” is right. LOL. Wont find many movies like this one 😯 I love hoe it keeps things visually interesting while it holds the extensive, sometimes rambling philosophical conversations it has… Its an excellent and highly unique animated film!

    Love the new banner with the Cowboy, btw, if that’s new. First time I’ve seen that one 😉

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    • You know how I love my existential movies, Fogs. 😉 I find so much substance in them and this is one that’s absolutely coursing with it. It’s a fantastic achievement from Linklater and still one of his best films.

      Yeah, my header is new and will now work in a rotation of images, thanks to our man Chris and his extensive talents. 🙂

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  4. Great look at this one, Mark. I saw part of it years ago and have been meaning to sit down and watch it all ever since. It’s about time I finally do that.

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  5. Love the review. It’s much more an experience than it is a film, and the quasi-documentary feel to it really makes you feel like you’ve learned something by the time it’s over. The beautiful visuals only add to the surreal ideas that are at center stage and Linklater proves again that he’s one of the best unsung directors working today. I also love that Celine and Jesse make an appearance.

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    • Absolutely, Nick! I couldn’t have put it better myself. You genuinely feel that your experiencing a philosophy lecture while being entertained at the same time. Totally agree on Linklater being one of the unsung directors. What more does this guy have to prove? I think he’s brilliant and always look forward to another release from him.

      As for Jesse and Celine, I wanted to mention that in my review but for some reason couldn’t fit it in without deviating from the subject at hand. It is a wonderful little touch, though. Cheers, man.

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  6. I’ve been always intrigued by this! Haven’t seen it yet! 🙂 Great review!

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  7. I totally agree. Waking Life is one of my favorite Linklater films and might even be at the top. I’ve watched it a bunch of times and get something new out of it each time.

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    • Yeah, it’s a fantastic film Dan. I’ve seen it a few times myself and each time it allows you to explore parts. The first time I seem it I was almost overwhelmed by it. It’s definitely one that requires multiple viewings.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. 🙂

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  8. daveackackattack Says:

    I remember going to see this in a theater. Quite trippy. Loved the visuals but the story came off as slightly pretentious. That’s just me. Interestingly enough after A Scanner Darkly Linklater said he’d never do a rotoscope movie again due to the vast amount of work it takes to put it up on screen. It’s a shame he stained his resume with that awful remake of The Bad News Bears. Really looking forward to seeing After Midnight though.

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    • I’d love to have seen this in the theatre, Dave. That would have been quite an experience. I can see why some may feel that it veers towards pretension but I didn’t get that. I got thoroughly involved.
      Totally agree on Bad News Bears, though. You wouldn’t think that that was a Linklater film. It’s too run of the mill for him. Other than that, though, I’ve enjoyed all of his films.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        The original Bad News Bears is one of my favorite sports movies. I played Little League baseball way back when and they got a lot of stuff right. Especially the stuff about the parents and coaches. While the kids were a little over the top they felt more real than the sanitized way kids are usually portrayed today. Michael Ritchie made a movie about kids for adults. Linklater made a movie about kids for kids. The results speak for themselves. As one reviewer said “The BNB suffers from the unbearable, crushing weight of political correctness.” I couldn’t agree more.

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      • Yeah, I should really check out Ritchie’s movie. I’m sure I’ve seen it but it was so long ago that I can’t remember anything about it.

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  9. Cracking review, I like Linklater as a filmmaker a huge amount but I have never seen this. I will definitely be checking it out now. Thanks.

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  10. Will certainly be watching this when I get the time.

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  11. Mark, this is one of those films that I have always meant to watch and for some reason it hasn’t happened yet. After checking out your review, I am even more excited to check it out.

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  12. Ravelien Schmidt Says:

    “Teasing us to get involved in the proces” is exactly what this masterpiece does! Whenever we watch it, my friends get into elaborate discussions. Nice review!

    Do you think the animation technique further invites us to get actively involved in the discussed questions – challenging our standard perception?

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    • Thanks a lot. Nice to see you stop by.

      Like yourself and your friends I always find myself pondering and discussing the philosophy involved. I think it’d be harder to watch the film and not do that. Likewise with the animation. I think the technique is perfectly fitting for Linklater’s ideas and discussions. There’s no doubt that he challenges our perceptions into the bargain. It’s just all round intelligent filmmaking. Of which, I really wish they’d make more of.

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