I’ve known Richard Linklater for years, from before he made SLACKER, when he was just talking about ideas for movies and had to pick and choose carefully which 6 lobby cards he could purchase from me at CITY WIDE GARAGE SALE about 6 years before AICN ever happened...
I’ve liked him, admired his work… even loved DAZED AND CONFUSED and BEFORE SUNRISE, but today, for the first time. He awed me. Took my breath away and made me dream about what it is that cinema can do… What animation can do…
I sat at the Paramount Theater at SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST at a special screening for the Cast and Crew and about 300 or so folks that stood in line for hours (like me) to get a ticket to see WAKING LIFE… a transcendental experience. That is the word, TRANSCENDENTAL, as much as any work of cinema has ever earned that word, WAKING LIFE does in spades.
On that old screen at the Paramount was something new and vital, not necessarily a new direction for animation, as the way the film was animated was so specifically and perfectly suited for the story being told that I can’t imagine anyone trying to use the same style. It’s like someone breaking in a pool game and sinking every ball in numerical order… I just can’t imagine seeing it done this perfectly again.
We hear a lot about innovative or experimental film, but we very rarely… if ever see GREAT EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA… New artsy technique being used exactly right in the service to a narrative about something so entwined to the style of innovation that… I was just left breathless.
Richard took the stage before the film started and said that he introduced the film at SUNDANCE with the phrase, "HOW MANY OF YOU ARE ON DRUGS?" It caused the audience to laugh, clap and giggle. This was a morning screening, if anyone was on drugs it was probably a residual high from some South By Southwest party the night before, but whether you are on drugs, have done drugs… well that’s completely a mute issue.
The key issue here is DO YOU DREAM? Do you remember them, have you tried to do things while dreaming… I relish dreaming. I love recalling dreams and I love the real world that I live in. The key thing though is that the film concerns itself quite seriously with the amount of people in the world today that do not seem to dream… that sleep only to shut their eyes out of boredom. Those People that don’t wake with a smile, but a look of indifference plastered upon their wax faces. The film explores that which goes through the mind in the final seconds of life left in your brain long after your body has died. You sometimes have a few moments… seconds that could seem to last forever… That could be what we are seeing in this film. Or it could be just a normal dream.
As I watched Richard Linklater’s WAKING LIFE, living in Austin, (the location used for the live action footage used as the basis of the animation) I found myself especially transformed into a trance like state. I watched and listened to these fantastic monologues and raps about the activity that your brain goes through while sleeping, the evolution of mankind and everything in-between. I felt as though I myself was dreaming of the city I live in… the city I converse and talk about ponderous subjects, the secrets of the universe, the meaning of life… you know all that pretentious things that seem so important when you say them… well, here in this film they nail the conversations and the way they feel…
The film is NOT concerned with the latest politics, the funny comedian that said the most outrageous thing on Leno last night or any of the other things we waste our day to day talking about.
This film is about the conversations of dreams, the type you only have in the dream. The rules and belief systems that rule that other existence. Coming in and out of consciousness whilst one’s eyes move back and forth rubbing against the interior of one’s eyelids. This film is about belief systems and a pursuit for the meaning of it all.
Sure you might have your own system all worked out. Some hard edge cynical anti-belief system… or perhaps by giving just 39.99 this weekend via PayPal you can sleep at ease because the Reverend Hotncrotch said so, but this film is going to lay down ideas… hypothesis and total bullshit on top of it all.
The film is that great conversation you half remember from that time when you thought you were so cool, but since you can’t remember what you said back then… well you aren’t and neither am I, but this film is a cinematically captured dreamstate.
This film is an immense success. A toweringly important work, and one of the most haunting open to interpretation tales I’ve seen. What happened? Where’d he go? Is that Neo-Man stuff real? Did he make this all up? Is there basis for the facts mentioned in the film? Whatever the case may be you leave the film with thoughts going through you and the conversation you have with those around you.
Quite honestly though… my biggest worry is that the film will play Arthouses only. This is one of those films that I want to see play everywhere. Sure, it probably fires above the heads of a great many people, but if Jeffrey Katzenberg was very serious about revolutionizing the very fabric of the ANIMATED film and what it can be… this is the film to push… to redefine what can be said and done… animated. They should market this like AMERICAN BEAUTY and take it everywhere….
This is first truly important American Film in quite some time. Important in style, substance and creativity. And Richard Linklater… one last word… WOW!