WAKING LIFE is a series of disconnected, abstract and frequently obtuse
philosophical discourses packaged in an extremely creative cartoon wrapper.
Live action was turned into computer-animated images. The results were then
scrambled so that scenes look rocked by groups of independent waves. Suffice it
to say that, if you're susceptible to motion sickness, this isn't the picture
for you. Not only do the scenes undulate, the bright cartoonish colors shimmer
and change like a chameleon in heat. The result is a film unlike any you've
ever seen before, which is more a statement of fact than a compliment.
Written and directed by Richard Linklater, who did one of my favorite films,
BEFORE SUNRISE, WAKING LIFE already has some critics reserving spots high on
their best-of-the-year lists for it. For my money, the film, like TIMECODE, is
no more than a fascinating stunt. In a fifteen minute dose, WAKING LIFE would
make a marvelous short film, but, at ninety-seven minutes, the film causes you
to experience the subject of the movie, which is dreaming. After a while, it's
hard to stay awake. There were many people at my screening, including my own
wife and son, who walked out on it, figuring that whatever was playing on the
next screen had to be better.
Some of the conversations are quite intriguing. A skipper of a car-boat taxi,
speaking to two tourists onboard, drones on like a Disneyland ride operator on
drugs, telling them, "This ride doesn't require a destination, just occupants."
A little girl playing a kid's game with a little boy comes up with a Chinese
fortune cookie-like aphorism, "Your life is yours to create." And a female
philosopher lectures, "Words are inert. They're just symbols. They're dead."
This trippy film, which probably would have played to packed houses in Berkeley
in the 60s, is a visually memorable movie. It's too bad it was released as a
feature length film. As it turned out, my wife and son made the right decision
by splitting early from WAKING LIFE.
WAKING LIFE runs 1:37. It is rated R for "language and some violent images" and
would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up, although most kids will be quite
Copyright © 2001 Steve Rhodes