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DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater RELEASE DATE: January 23, 2001 RATING: R
CAST: Wiley Wiggins et al.
// review by Jeff

Philosophy in 99 Boring Lessons!

"Waking Life"... dear goodness. Where do I begin with this? This is my very first movie review, and of all the movies in the world, I had to start with "Waking Life"... Well, before I begin, I guess it's important to tell you upfront that this movie is not for everybody. I can't even tell you who it IS designed for. This film won a wide variety of awards, specifically for its technological achievements, not as much for the film's actual content. I'd also like to note that in order to fully appreciate this film, it is necessary to put on your thinking cap... and then put a thinking fedora on top of that. Heh heh... anyway...

By the way, why is this movie rated "R"? There's nothing really that could really harm the minds of children in this film (except for a cursing red man...and perhaps the fact that the views expressed within the film may cause them to overheat and melt into a gooified pool of uselessness). Oh well. Anyway, as soon as the movie begins, one would note the unique animation style to this film: a method known as 'rotoscoping', whereas real people are filmed in scenes using digital video, and then animators go over each frame of film and trace the features of the frame's contents. That's why the characters and backgrounds are always waving around -- no two frames are the same! Furthermore, the camera is rarely (if ever) stationary, so for extremely weak stomachs, take caution! Flee the village!

This movie is the tale of some sort of confused adolescent male (also known as ANY adolescent male). There's no real plot to be found, unless you consider his search for an answer to a question no one asked a plotline. Basically, this fellow falls asleep and floats away into an alternate realm -- the dreamscape, if you will. In his reverie, he stammers upon character after countless character who gives their individual points of view on human ways of life, existentialism, the ideology behind dreaming, and posthumanistic philosophies, where each encounter is connected by a quick animated transfer of location (the main character is flying somewhere new; I guess he has no interest in sticking around). Unfortunately, they come off as both bland and pretentious in their monologues (or occasionally, in their dialogues) and this pushes them away from the movie viewer... except for that talking chimp. No one can deny the pleasant intensity of a simian orator. The vast majority of personnages in this movie (and there are far too many to name or to take a particular interest in) certainly have something academic to say, and most things will probably float over the heads of the common man. (I've wisely chosen not going to debate the validity of the positions posed in the film here.)

Yes, it's a very intelligent film, and it probably was meant to be that way. However, it's also rather grandiloquent in its delivery. More effort was made to deliver the messages than to ensure that the film is entertaining, which I'm sorry to say it is not. The animations are nice to look at for a little while, but the astounding interest eventually wears off, and you're just left sitting there listening to cartoons talking about their own private theologies. This movie is 99 minutes long, and it becomes almost frustrating to hear these people droning on about such things after about one half hour. Furthermore, there is a certain air of pessimism floating about throughout this film that applies to it nuances of. In fact, as the film grows closer and closer to the climax that it never arrives at, depression begins to train its own army as the pessimism about real life fully exposes its claws, such as in the case of a certain rambling wanderer in the film who seems to know nothing about where he is, droning on and on like a whining catastrophe of a man: "There's nothing here for me now. Nothing at all. Now I remember! This happened to me before. This is why I left..." And then, the camera pans to me, telling him to stop complaining and to get a job. Then I float away. Cracking a smile upon the viewer's face is a difficult task here, as they will likely either be fully engrossed by the ideologies put forth by the bland characters or poking themselves in the eye just to ensure that they haven't died and gone to a place where they show this film.

The musical score of the film, relatively minimal though it is, actually serves the purpose of the film. It is not light-hearted, but is underscored by a nice set of strings (piano, violin, and the like). It is not a flighty soundtrack, but instead ports a melancholy style known as "nuevo tango", a synchronization of classical and jazz elements. I guess that's cool...

I will make myself clear about this film: it is not one to be watched by anyone who demands excitement or entertainment; it is not that style of cinema. Instead, the meta message about life in general is the name of the game here. The animation style is only used as a mask to make this movie appear more entertaining (for assuredly, if it were portrayed by real actors, even MORE people would be poking themselves in the eye in search of life). If this was indeed the intention of director Richard Linklater, then his dream has been accomplished. "Waking Life" is an experimental film by nature, and that's it. That's what you should expect. But do I recommend this film? Well, although I applaud the effort behind this project to inform (and it does so well enough; if you can pay attention, you'll probably learn something magnificent), it falls flat on its face when it tries to entertain. If one is not entertained, one shall become uninterested in being informed. Therefore, I cannot recommend that you watch this film.

Plus the ending bugs me. And that part where he "wakes up" right before a kiss.


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