A review of  Waking Life” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: **

Rating: R for language

Run Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes


Patience is a virtue, and you’ll need truckloads of it to wade through Richard Linklater’s pedantic, yet visually innovative, spin on Beat Coffeehouse Philosophy and moral self-discipline.

Linklater has found his niche as a filmmaker.  The upcoming “Tape” is a brilliant triple-threat of acting, directing, and digital filmmaking, and past efforts (“Before Sunrise”, “Dazed and Confused”) have showed remarkable promise.  Linklater, no shrinking violet he, breaks new ground here with an animation technique that utilizes artists who color (a la paint-by-numbers) moving images, and combines it with “rotoscoping”, a traditional technique based on the actors’ movements.  The result is a flow of arresting images that spring from the minds and pens of truly gifted artists.

Brilliantly conceived character visualization is one thing – the characters’ verbal expression is quite another.  Said dialogue is a relentless roundelay of armchair philosophy, connected by the tenuous narrative thread of a young man attempting to separate dreams from consciousness.  Everyman college grad (Wiley Wiggins) exits a train in an unidentified city and numbly trips from one bizarre idealistic encounter to the next. Elaborate metaphysical discussions pile onto logical reasoning, while Everyman perpetually searches, searches, searches… for the meaning of it all.

Zzzzzzzzzzz.  Not fond of abstract observation in its rawest form, I found myself on the verge of discourse-induced slumber. Torn up the middle in a sensory battle of auditory monotony vs. visual stimulation. The New Evolution, existentialism, and logic. Deconstruction, epistemology, confrontation between souls - blah, blah, blah.  But each frame is a glorious, individual work of art - pulsing with color, bathed with energetic spirit.  Perhaps a repeat screening with the track knob turned to OFF?

A heavy parade of hip, A-listers lend their voices and visages to Linklater’s enigmatic paint-ball of a movie, including Ethan Hawke (a Linklater muse) and director Steven Soderbergh.  This festival darling (Sundance, Venice, Toronto, etc.) will have armchair philosophers lining up in droves.  Color me bored.