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Waking Life

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Waking Life

Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke
Director: Richard Linklater
Rated: R
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: October 2001
Genres: Animation, Comedy

*Also starring: Nicky Katt, Julie Delpy, John Christensen, Charles Gunning, Steven Prince, Steven Soderbergh, Timothy Levitch, Richard Linklater

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

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 bored.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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