The Waking Life

2001 cartoon

Rating: 17/20

Plot: A guy meets various characters as he wanders through a dream and then a dream within that dream and then maybe a dream within that dream within a dream.

"Super perfundo on the early eve of your day."

Like a philosophical hodgepodge, Waking Life is noodly, a jam session. Noodly and probably frustrating. I consider myself a fairly deep thinker or at the very least I pretend to be one, but this is a little exhausting. Maybe it would help if I dreamed. I don't--lucidly or nonlucidly. Well, people tell me that I dream, but I don't know how they know. I definitely don't remember any dreams, and I've always been jealous of people who do. And I suppose that's why I like watching movies, especially surreal ones. They take the place of dreams. This is one of those dreamy movies and its stuffed with so many ideas that it's probably impossible to watch the thing and not get something out of it--the idea that we may or may not make decisions that make us who we are, dreams as destiny, crayons, our need for revenge, the importance of human beings demanding freedom, existentialism and the big pink nosy ideas of postmodernists, the flaws in our language, free will, science as God, evolution and a neo-human not restricted by either time or space, human beings' need for chaos and destruction and even death, free will again. It's like Linklater wasn't sure what idea he wanted to tackle in this, so he, sort of like in the exquisite Slacker, just threw it all out there in an attempt to either answer the question "What is reality?" or, more likely, just ask the question "What is reality?" over and over and over again. And it's quite possible that the movie's about nothing at all and how liberating it would be to realize that everything that's ever been thought might just be a bunch of balderdash so that we can float away. I like how the protagonist, a long-haired Native American maybe, progresses through this "story" in this. For the first half of the movie, he's passive in these dream snippets. He's a listener, an onlooker. Gradually, his voice comes out more and more and he tries to gain control of the situation. By the end--dude's flying. It was an ingenious choice to use the rotoscoping animation technique which helps this match up visually with the idea that what we think is really real might not really be really real. It's a copy of a visual truth, wavy lines and shifting color palettes suggesting that none of this is real and then suggesting that maybe that's the way we should be looking at our existence. The visual effects are discombobulating, and I can't imagine seeing this on the big screen without getting a little dizzy. I'm not going to pretend I even have 1/4th the brain to understand 1/4th of this movie. Hell, I was confused by large portions of A Goofy Movie, so I probably have no chance with this one. However, I did get something out of it and find it exhilarating stylistically, a trippy skull cracker. In a way, I wish I would have made this an Oprah Movie Club selection so that I could have watched it by myself and have absolutely nobody to discuss it with.

Bonus point for Timothy "Speed" Levitch who does not disappoint in his animated cameo. If you haven't seen The Cruise, please do so immediately.

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