waking to waking life


When Waking Life, the sixth film by writer-director Richard Linklater, drifted into theaters in late 2001, I, for one, was not prepared. My memory of the first viewing recalls mainly my own impatience — an unusual movie falling victim to mood. Rather than being enveloped by its cloudy, rotoscopic dream world or engaged by the simultaneously floaty and weighty intellectual axis traversed by its nameless protagonist, I felt left out, stuck in the immediate world, with its new threat-level rainbow and clenched posture of dread. Taking another look almost twelve years later, in the wake of writing about Linklater’s Before trilogy and marriage at the movies for the August issue of Harper’s, I had a much different response. Perhaps I’m a little sea-blind, or riding a swell of admiration for a director whose sensibility has only clarified and grown more consistent with time (spoiler alert: I love the Before films). But I sensed throughout Waking Life echoes of the trilogy’s themes: memory, dream life, the nature of reality; the way all three work within and without a person to form his or her (or their) story; and cinema’s essential sympathies and fidelities to that process.

more from Michelle Orange at Harper’s here.