Blu-Ray Review: Waking Life

Director: Richard Linklater
Screenplay: Richard Linklater
Starring: Wiley Wiggins, Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Steven Soderbergh, Richard Linklater
Country: USA
Running Time: 101 min
Year: 2001
BBFC Certificate: 15


Released back in 2001, Waking Life saw indie darling Richard Linklater experiment with using cutting edge digital rotoscoping animation to bring his meandering, talk-heavy style of drama to new life. Rotoscoping (creating animation by tracing over film footage) had been used for years since the early days of animation, but this was the first time anyone had used digital rotoscoping to produce a full feature film. The software used was developed by Bob Sabiston, an animator and computer scientist veteran of the MIT Media Lab, who used it originally to make his award-winning short film “Snack and Drink”.

Waking Life follows an unnamed character (played by Wiley Wiggins) as he drifts through his shifting dreams. Along the way he meets a wide variety of characters who each give their differing theories and philosophies about life and consciousness. And that’s pretty much it. The film is largely just a series of monologues/lectures/discussions with our protagonist not really interacting with the speakers until the final third where the topics lean more heavily towards dreams and reality, and he asks them about his predicament of being trapped in this dream in such a lucid state.

On paper then, this is a film I should hate. I’ve talked in previous reviews about my distaste for films where characters spout philosophy and the experience becomes a lecture rather than an engaging narrative. I think I prefer philosophies to be explained visually or metaphorically (or maybe I’m just stupid), but I find it tedious to listen to an intellectual spouting theories at me. Roughly knowing what to expect from Waking Life before going in to it (this was my first watch), I was fully expecting to hate it, but I’m a big fan of some of Linklater’s work and I’m also a huge animation fan, so I thought I should give it a try.

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Trailer: Linklater’s Before Midnight

Richard Linklater continues the romantic adventures and travails of Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke with Before Midnight. The third entry in the series find them a bonafide couple, with two little girls in Greece. And all the stresses of age, parenting, regrets, etc. challenge the notion of perpetual romance. I love the idea of these ‘delayed’ sequels (see also the middle chapter, After Sunset) which allow us to see the progress of these two characters as they (and we) make our way through life. They’ve also had a nice mix of the practical, the romantic and a sense of humour about things; what more do you need from life? To find out where the couple stands in their parenting years, and for that matter, who is the “mayor of Crazytown” you’ll have to watch the trailer below.

Exploring Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy: White (1994)

Sandwiched between the opulent Blue and the more elusive Red, White suffers to a degree from the “middle film syndrome” found so often in film trilogies. There are numerous possible reasons behind this specific case: it is a comedy (of sorts) amid two more deeply serious films, its titular hue doesn’t promise as much visual splendor as blue or red does, and it possesses a more surprising and quirky quality than what one might initially expect before viewing it. That final point partially stems from certain promotional images for the film focusing mainly on actress Julie Delpy. It makes sense in the context of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy and the marketing for it as a whole: three colors, three films, three lovely leading ladies (with Delpy joined by Juliette Binoche and Irène Jacob).
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Delpy on Skylab

Though I’ve only seen her in two really memorable roles and I wasn’t a huge lover of her 2007 film, 2 Days in Paris, for some reason I always find myself looking forward to another Julie Delpy project. The fact that she wrote, directed, produced, acted and provided the music for her last picture is enough to elevate her, at least in my mind, to someone who deserves some respect. That film making debut was good enough in fits and starts that although I didn’t love the heck out of it, I remember thinking that I anticipate anything more than Delpy might tackle in the future. With some recent news that she’s moving forward with a sequel to the Paris movie set this time in New York, we now come to find that she’s working a little overtime on a much further reaching and more interesting project. A period piece of the 70s entitled Skylab.

Skylab was a NASA space station that became an international media event when it came crashing to earth across Western Australia in 1979, six years after going into orbit. Delpy’s film will focus on an eccentric family around the time of this event. It remains to be seen if the family is directly involved with the crash somehow or if it is just a world event in which to wrap a story around. Delpy appearing in her own film didn’t completely work the first time but the chemistry that worked best in 2 Days in Paris was that between the two main characters and the family members. Hopefully she’s tightened up her own bit of the script as not surprisingly, she’ll also be starring in this upcoming tale of familial drama. While her freshman film didn’t always work as a whole, it was enjoyable enough in segments. Here’s hoping Delpy capitalizes on those moments in this tale from 1979 with a possible scientific bit of flavor(?).

Bookmarks for May 27th through June 8th

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What we’ve been reading – May 27th through June 8th:

Delpy’s Countess Gets a Full Length Trailer

The Countess Movie StillWhile doing a bit of research on Rembrandt (it’s all Greenaway’s fault), I had the thought to check up on the status of Julie Delpy’s upcoming film The Countess.

I’ve been impressed with the tidbits of information that have been released about the film, a dramatic adaptation of events surrounding the life of Elizabeth Báthory, a 16th-century Hungarian countess who was said to have killed virgins and bathed in their blood in an effort to keep herself young; but everything released to date along with the myth itself, suggested that this would be a dark and twisted tale and though it may be; the film’s trailer suggests something different. I should have guessed that coming from Delpy, who aside from starring also wrote and directed the film, this tale would be much more realistic and a sort of meditation on power, beauty and youth.

It looks low key but beautiful and I love that though it’s period and the costuming and set design look top notch, they are not at the centre of this trailer. It really is a look at the woman behind the myth and I can’t wait for the opportunity to see it. The Countess premiered at Berlin earlier this year but sadly, it has not been picked up for North American distribution. It has, however, been picked up for release in a few European markets opening in Germany on June 25th and the Netherlands on August 6th. Looks like I’ll be keeping watch for a European DVD release before the end of ’09.