(US); 2001; Rated R; 95 Minutes
Produced by Caroline Kaplan, Tommy Pallotta, Jonathan
Sehring, John Sloss, Jonah Smith, Anne Walker-McBay and
Palmer West; Directed and screenwritten by Richard
by DAVID KEYES
through "Waking Life" is like being trapped in
a painting filled with philosophy students; every visual
of the movie bleeds of elaborate abstractness, but you rapidly
lose interest because those who stand in front of them discuss
life, destiny, dreaming and imagination to a degree that
feels repetitive and endless. Halfway through the film,
there is a moment when a character looks over to another
and asks him "what are you writing?" His reply:
"A novel. But there's no story; it's just people, gestures,
moments, bits of rapture fleeting emotions. In short, the
greatest story ever told." This is the basic thread
of logic the movie follows, because other than characters
passing each other and opening themselves up to dialogue
exchanges, there is no plot or element of basic storytelling
contained in the picture. Needless to say, it eventually
leads to ultimate boredom. And even then, that idea itself
might have at least worked had the characters found more
interesting things to talk about.
movie is conveyed with the visual eye of Renoir but the
narrative significance of Aristotle. Director Richard Linklater
first captured live actors and settings via a digital handheld
camera, and then, using computers, he and his crew animated
over the footage in a style that has no specific scope or
look, but one that seemingly combines elements of watercolor,
anime, pointillism and, in some respects, claymation. Every
element of the landscape has its own personality; when characters
are walking through streets, buildings sway and pavements
ripple as if they're living organisms. However, Linklater's
script is vessel of confusion that disrupts the ripples
in this sea of beauty; he creates a narrative atmosphere
with no shape or conformity, no specific character links
or names, and absolutely no clear direction. The movie's
scenes can practically be watched in any order. And though
the topics he chooses to talk about certainly can provoke
lengthy and involved discussions, but few of them can be
as tedious as the ones utilized here.
this been a film with a black screen and only dialogue,
audiences would swear that the characters were reading from
a philosopher's book.
That's not to say the film is totally without substance.
Two key scenes stick out from the rest, one featuring a
prison inmate played by Charles Gunning, and another in
which a gas station worker and a bartender discuss the use
of their guns. The first scene is significant mostly because
of its look, as the animation presents the inmate in red
flesh, underscoring the character's crude attitude as he
foolishly displays traits of bitter nihilism to his listeners.
The latter scene, meanwhile, works because the dialogue
builds up to a semi-climactic resolution filled with surprise
and irony, something that isn't really seen anywhere else
in the film. Heck, there is even an effective moment when
a character describes himself as the gear of a machine and
his head morphs into one.
sequences, of course, are presented through animation that
is fresh yet nourishing at the same time, but that clouds
the issue. When moviegoers are enticed by new techniques
or ideas, they expect to get a whole worthwhile package.
Certainly this was the case with "Memento," a
film from earlier in the year that challenged the audience
both through its approach and its storytelling. "Waking
Life," unfortunately, meets us halfway and then ceases
to elaborate. For those only interested in that point, the
movie works remarkably well. However, those seeking to discover
more than just eye-popping exteriors should wait for something
better to pop up.
2001, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.