03 November 2001

waking life - dir. richard linklater - so i just got back from seeing this film. i want you to think of joyce's ulysses, of gershwin's "rhapsody in blue," of godard's breathless -- unquestionable artistic breakthroughs all. now. i want you to imagine ulysses as a broadway musical ("from the makers of footloose..."); of justin timberlake putting lyrics to "rhapsody in blue"; and, finally, of breathless being remade in english with richard gere (…wait a second).

what i'm getting at here is the concept of a piece of art tarnished by something absurd. so waking life, then. it's an eminently watchable film, so much so that it occasionally distracts you from what's being said. which is a good thing because most of what's being said is philosophical bullshit, faux-profundity. recall every longwinded, undesired speech you've received from all the authority figures and blowhards you've known in your life. and then give them a sense of philosophical entitlement (and $9 for a ticket while you're at it). i had the displeasure of seeing scary movie 2 this summer and the good thing about it was that it was such a flop that one needn't be troubled by the idea of a third film in the series. scary movie 2 threw jokes at you relentlessly and, yeah, with all of those attempts, it's bound to have a few yuks. so too waking life assaults you with DEEP THOUGHTS and occasionally, particularly near the end, it works.

but still, as far as i'm concerned it could've relayed its ideas of dreams vs. reality with the animation alone. the art is sometimes impeccably rendered, other times purposely crude, but never is it less than breathtaking. the rotoscope technology makes everything seem as if it's floating, which works well with the themes at hand. (a caveat: if you get seasick easily, you'll want to pass.)

the story, as much as there is one, involves a nameless protagonist who passes through life (or is it a dream?) aimlessly. everywhere he goes, he meets someone who feels they have carte blanche to relate to him every thought they've ever had about dreams and the way our consumerist society is sucking the, er, life out of them. as he nears the end of his journey, the notion of lucid dreams is explored, but one senses that he never does establish dominion over his dreams and those that occupy them because he never once tells these people to SHUT UP. but maybe that's just me.

the movie was written by director richard linklater and its intentions are noble and its heart is in the right place -- i can't disagree with the central concept that we should live our lives as if they contained the logic and endless possibilities of our dreams. but like many of those with noble intentions, their actions and words are couched in pseudo-intellectualism which makes being a brainwashed capitalist, those who the righteous are continuously railing against, seem like a fantastic idea. (indeed, when a scenario based around the line "a well-armed society is the ultimate defense against tyranny" is tackled sarcastically, the line itself seems to ring truer than much of what is in the film.)

and yet, i still very much enjoyed the film for its images and for some of the concepts brought up despite what i think about a great deal of the dialogue; what i can't deny is just that: that the film ended up making me think and few films i've seen this year have been able to accomplish that. in my sophomore year of college, i took philosophy and on the first day of the course, the professor set about proving to me that i couldn't say for certain if i was awake or if i was dreaming. from that point on, i decided that i'd rather live than to ponder my living (and ended up with a "c" in the course). this may very well make me an anti-intellectual, but i've been called worse. as far as waking life is concerned, i've decided that it's better to watch the ideas manifest themselves in the animation than to actually listen to them.