Many critics have called 2001 a bad year for movies. Frankly, I think that's a load of crap. There have been plenty of bold, exciting movies in 2001, you just have to know where to look. For example, the fact that I can say that "Waking Life", a new tour-de-force from Richard Linklater, is the best film I've seen since "Memento" proves that 2001 has been kind to the film world.
Coming out of "Waking Life", I knew I had experienced something, but I wasn't sure what. That's a unique feeling that I've only felt a few times before. Only with films such as "Brazil" or "Memento" have I walked out of the theater not knowing what to think, but acknowledging that for an hour and a half, something completely different had graced the screen. Now, after taking the time to digest all that I saw, I can now say with confidence that "Waking Life" is an extraordinary film.
"Waking Life" is a beautiful, flowing film that is always in motion, just bursting with life. It is animated, but not in the traditional, Disney-esque ways that we're used to. No, this film was shot with a digital camera first, then painted over with a process called rotoscoping. An ensemble of animators with a plethora of styles were brought on board, allowing the film to be constantly fresh, never appearing the same way twice. The images certainly are amazing, and had me wide-eyed for the entire film.
The film doesn't really have a plot, instead it seems to drift in and out of a dream. This works much to the film's advantage. Our "protagonist", if we could even call him that, is played by Wiley Wiggins. He (literally) floats around Anywhere, USA with questions there are no answers to. We meet several characters, all presenting their theories, philosophies and ravings about how we live, why we live and how we want to live.
He doesnt find answers to any of his questions, and neither do we. But to find a concrete answer would be to deny the viewer of the experience that is "Waking Life". The film is meant as a philosophical massage to get one thinking about these sort of things. Trust me, these theories have invaded my mind and are going to stay there for quite some time.
Of course, I just can't review a film without saying something about it's music. For "Waking Life", the Tosca Tango Orchestra has come up with an amiable little score that suits the film's precise, yet wandering tone.
"Waking Life" is full of so many astonishing, beautiful images that I can't describe them with words. If what I wrote above makes you think that this is a stale, depressing art-house flick, think again. "Waking Life" is one of the most inventive, lively and exciting movies to come around in a long time. The messages of the film are uplifting, not scolding. If you sit watching the film waiting for something to "happen", I'm afraid you won't get much out of it. Just let the film take you where it wants to and absorb it moment by moment.